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The Life and Works of 
Mrs. Therese Robinson 



(A. B. 1910, A. M. 1911, University of Illinois) 


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the 
degree of doctor of philosophy in German in the Graduate 
School of the University of Illinois 





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The Life and Works of 
Mrs. Therese Robinson 




(A. B. 1910, A. M. 1911, University of Illinois) 


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the 

degree of doctor of philosophy in German in the Graduate 

School of the University of Illinois 


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Mr. Edward Robinson 




Introduction 7 

Biography 26 

Literary Activity Prior to Coming to America 43 

Tlie American Indian 53 

Studies in Popular Poetry 71 

History of the Colonization of New England 87 

Miscellaneous Essays 104 

A Study of the Ossian Question 112 

Her Novels 123 

Conclusion 136 

Bibliography 142 

Appendix 145 


It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity of 
expressing- my deep gratitude to Professor Julius Goebel of 
the University of Illinois, who first awakened in me a keen 
interest in the history of the German-American element in this 
country. It was he who directed my attention to the subject 
of the present monograph and by his broad scholarship, his un- 
failing enthusiasm and kindly advice made this study possible. 

I also wish to acknowledge gratefully the helpful criticism 
and the valuable suggestions which I owe to Professor O. E. 
Lessing of the University of Illinois. 

To Mr. Edward Robinson, of New York City, Talvj's 
grandson, who kindly placed at my disposal what was left of 
her manuscript material as well as a photograph of her portrait, 
I respectfully dedicate this study. 

I. E. V. 



By Irma Elizabeth Voigt, Ph. D. 
Dean of Women in Ohio University, Athens, O. 


One of the most fascinating and difficult problems which 
confronts the student of American history is that of the rise 
and development of a higher national culture in America. 
The fact that it is closely interwoven with the question of 
the development of a uniform American nationality out of 
the various ethnic elements composing the American con- 
stitutes its peculiar complexity. What is called American 
national culture is, at the present day, not the product of 
the American people as a racial unity, but the result of 
the contributions made by the civilizations of the various 
ethnic elements which have met and mingled in this 
country. While it will remain the task of the future his- 
torian of American civilization to determine the share 
which each of these ethnic elements had in the process of 
forming a new composite culture, this work cannot be 
accomplished satisfactorily until a number of single detailed 
investigations have been made. 

It is from this latter point of view that the following 
study of the life and work of Mrs. Robinson (Talvj) has 
been undertaken. A woman distinguished as a scholar and 
author, and representing as a member of the Goethe circle 
the highest type of German culture, enters America at a 
period when the higher civilization of this country is in 
the first stages of its making. German influence in the 
previous century had not been Avanting, but it had been 
confined chiefiy to Pennsylvania, where Philadelphia early 
became a center of culture, and to New York, where the 
first original writers of America, men like Irving, Cooper, 
and Bryant, had felt its stimulating touch. On the whole, 

— 7 — 

however, the higher intellectual life of America had been 
English in character, with a decided leaning, since the time 
of the Revolution, toward the French spirit. And so it 
remained until the second decade of the nineteenth century, 
when a group of talented men at Harvard inspired by 
Madame de Stael's book (1814), transferred the completion 
of their studies to Germany, and there discovered the 
wealth of German culture. Upon their return to America 
they began to implant consciousl}^ the best seeds of this 
culture into the rising civilization of the young republic.^ 
With the thirties of the last century, American literature 
and philosophy, philology and historiography, — every 
branch, in fact, of intellectual activity, — began thus to 
show the influence of German cultural ideals. 

While in the spheres just mentioned the value of this 
foreign impulse is today more or less recognized, it seems 
little known that in the field of American theology there 
was a similar movement. Inasmuch as the husband of the 
woman of whom this study is to treat was a leader in its 
inception, a word concerning it may be in place. Despite 
the fact that theology had been from the first the dominant 
force in America, it can justly be said that from the modern 
point of view it was utterly devoid of the scientific spirit. 
To be sure, among the theologians of the various denom- 
inations v/e find men of a great amount of learning; but 
theirs was not a productive scholarship. Proudly confident that 
truth had been established once for all by the fathers of the 
Reformation, they felt no need of an unremitting search 
after newer light. During a period of more than two cen- 
turies American theology did not produce a single vv^ork 
which could be considered a permanent contribution to theo- 

1 Professor Charles F. Richardson discussing this period, says in his 
excellent work American Literature, 1607 — 1885, that "it is a matter 
of important record which should not be forgotten by the student of 
American books, that the force of the newly revived Teutonic mind 
was directly felt in America simultaneously with its impact upon British 
thought. Germany and its philosophy and literature were not less 
known and not less highly esteemed in the United States than in 
England and Scotland during this period." 

— 8 — 

logy as a science.^ So powerful, moreover, was the dom- 
ination of the theological spirit in America, that it claimed 
control over all intellectual activity, and resisted every 
effort to introduce a cultural ideal which did not recognize 
theological supremacy.'^ 

The first attempt at making a breach in this stronghold 
of the elder dogmatism was the Unitarian movement. A 
similar, although far less radical attempt at infusing new 
life into American theology, by bringing it into contact 
with the new philosophical and scientific spirit of Germany, 
was made by Professor Edward Robinson, the husband 
of Talvj. It was for this purpose that he founded, after his 
return from Germany in 1830, the Biblical Repository, 
afterwards known as the Bibliotheca Sacra, the pages of 
which clearly reflect the influence of German culture in 
the theological field. It is a noteworthy fact that the first 
volumes of this periodical contain, aside from Robinson's 
and Moses Stuart's essays,* only contributions of German 

2 By theology as a science I mean, of course, historical theology 
in the widest sense of the word, for it is the only branch of theology 
or the science of religion to which the term "science" in the modern 
sense is applicable. The "Treatise on the Freedom of the Will" by 
Jonathan Edwards is not considered here because of its metaphysical 

How keenly the lack of the scientific spirit in American theology was 
felt as late as 1840 may be seen from the following words of Theodore 
Parker: "It is only the Germans in this age who study theology or even 
the Bible, with the aid of enlightened and scientific criticism. There 

is not even a history of theology in our language For our 

ecclesiastical history we depend upon translations from Du Pin and 
Tillemont, or, more generally, on those from the German Mosheim or 
Gieseler." The Dial, vol. i, p. 324. 

3 Cf. Richardson, American Literature, vol. i, p. 119: "It is not 
easy in these days of the independence of the laity to estimate rightly 
the power of the ministers in early New England. Few Roman Catho- 
lic priests exercise a more potent control over their congregations 
than did these ministers and servants of the first churches of Boston, 
Salem, Plymouth, over their independent and democratic flock. Theo- 
retically the minister was but one among the body of the church, 
practically he was a force in public affairs and in social order." 

* Cf. Richardson, Am. Lit. vol. i. p. 294: "The spirituality and the 

— 9 ~ 

scholars in translation. Thus great was still the dearth of 
theological scholarship in America at that time. And quite 
frankly one of the writers states : our American philosophy 
has continued essentially the same as in the seventeenth 

While Talvj, as will be seen later, assisted her husband 
in this work, her chief interests lay, in the wider fields of 
human culture. In order to estimate correctly her con- 
tribution to the national civilization which was then gra- 
dually taking form, it may be well in this introductory 
chapter to give a brief survey of contemporary conditions 
of American cultivation. There are two main sources from 
which we may derive our knowledge of the degree to which 
the higher intellectual life had developed. One of these is 
to be found in contemporary American literature and in 
the status of such other expressions of the spirit of the 
times as higher education, music, art, etc. ; the other in 
opinions of cultured foreigners, especially the Germans who 
during this period migrated to America in great numbers. 
Some of these newcomers were seeking this country as the 
Utopia of human freedom ; others were filled with the hope 
of finding here an opportunity of taking part in the up- 
building of its civilization. For these latter Gustav Kor- 
ner," himself a man of academic training, is impelled by 

discreet liberalism of Schleiermacher and other Germans of kindred 
mind were beginning to be used as allies by the conservative Congre- 
gationalists of New England who, like Stuart, were not content to let 
'German culture' be deemed the property of Emerson and Parker." 

5 Philip Schaf, "German Literature in America", Bibliotheca Sacra, 
vol. iv, p. 511. 

6 Gustav Koerner (1809—1896) came from the academic circles of 
Frankfurt a/M. and Heidelberg, and as a young man entered the 
activities of American life at its most significant period of develop- 
ment. His career in America is closely associated with the political 
and historical development of Illinois, as he was supreme judge 
in this state from 1845 to 1850, and lieutenant governor from 1852 
to 1856. Beginning with Van Buren's presidential campaign, he took 
an active interest in each successive national election. He was es- 

— 10 — 

Gottfried Duden's^ glowing but misleading reports of life 
in America to raise the questions, "How far has life in the 
American republic, especially in the new western states, 
developed in its intellectual and political phases?" and 
"What restrictions are the present defects of this develop- 
ment likely to lay upon the intellectual freedom of the 
cultivated immigrants?" He concludes these questions with 
the remark, "To him who is seeking merely a haven of re- 
lease from the burdens of sustenance and physical oppres- 
sion, these considerations, aside from arousing a slight in- 
terest, can have no especial significance; but he who is 
seeking a place in which to move and express kimself freely, 
spiritually as well as physically, certainly must consider 
well every possible answer to these questions." ^ That 

pecially fitted for campaigning because of his ability to speak fluently 
in German, English, and French. Not only was he the most confidential 
advisor of Governor "Dick" Yates, but he w^as also consulted fre- 
quently by President Lincoln in regard to various highly important 
matters. As a lawyer he was eminently successful, a fact which 
was recognized by the University of Heidelberg when in 1882 this 
body conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. 
His entire life in America, to his very last year, was one of the most 
intense interest and activity in the land of his adoption. (Cf. Ratter- 
mann, vol. xi, p. 219 fif.) 

'' As early as 1824 Gottfried Duden had taken up a temporary abode 
about 80 miles from St. Louis. From here he wrote most attractive 
and alluring letters to his friends in Germany, and because of the 
respect in which he was held, both by virtue of his intellectuality and his 
political prominence in his fatherland, these letters had a very great 
influence. But unfortunately Duden was a man in whom theory did 
not grow out of practice, and theoretically he had found in America 
the Utopia for which he was seeking. Attracted by his favorable re- 
ports, in the hope of finding a land abounding in milk and honey, many 
highly cultured German families came to this country in 1832 to settle 
in the same spot which Duden had left, in a sudden access of disap- 
pointment, after a two years residence. After several years spent in 
America Koerner became impressed with the fact that many of Du- 
den's reports were altogether incorrect and misleading, and this led 
him in 1834 to write and publish his pamphlet entitled, Beleuchtung des 
Duden'schen Berichtes ilber die westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas. Von 
Amerika aus. (Cf. Koerner, Das deutsche Element, p. 299 ff.) 

8 Koerner, Beleuchtung des Duden'schen Berichtes, 1834, p. 45. 

— 11 — 

men like Koerner came here with lofty patriotic intentions is 
usually overlooked by American historians, as it was 
frequently unappreciated by their American contem- 
poraries. It was because America was to be their future 
home that these men were so deeply interested in getting a 
correct view of the entirety of American life, of its physical 
as well as its intellectual and cultural side. This very fact 
also makes the notes of German travelers, which upon first 
consideration might seem but hasty and superficial, of the 
greatest significance. The chief object of all these reports, 
whether by educated German residents or by travelers, 
was to give to future German emigrants the accurate 
knowledge they were seeking; and this despite a feeling on 
the part of many Americans that these men were spying 
upon them in order to be able to ridicule America upon 
their return to the Fatherland. That their attitude was 
keenly critical and their expressions boldly truthful is but 
natural, and argues neither against their hopefulness for 
America's future nor against their confidence in and respect 
for her achievements. The reports in almost all cases give 
evidence of the characteristically critical and scientific view- 
point of the cultured German. But before considering fur- 
ther the status of American culture as interpreted by these 
men, we may profitably consider what our contemporary 
American sources have to tell us on this subject. 

Perhaps the one great obstacle which at first retarded 
the development of American culture and later frequently 
resulted in its misdirection, was lack of national unity. From 
the earliest period, the spirit of nationality had had to fight 
its way, stubbornly resisted all along its course, by local 
pride. The first breaking away from the bondage of sec- 
tionalism followed the extreme ardor of the times which 
immediately preceded final unification, and in consequence 
American literature began to assume as early as 1789 the 
appearance, at least, of a national literature. But the new- 
fledged aggressive Americanism was ignorant of the fact 
that it was impossible to create by conscious effort truly 
national poetry, music, or art. To this statement it must 

— 12 — 

be added that America, in her origin as well as in her 
literary standards, was provincial, not national. She de- 
clared her political independence of England, but at the 
same time continued to follow English models in almost 
every other regard. Only here and there was heard occa- 
sionally the voice of original poetry, as for instance, when 
Philip Freneau recognized the Indian as a fit subject for 
literary treatment. 

Because, therefore, of its decidedly imitative character, 
it was not until the nineteenth century that American 
literature was considered with anything but indifference 
or even contempt by other countries. When this new era 
was ushered in, by Washington Irving and others, it came 
as the result of travel by American men of letters among 
the countries of Europe, and an honest effort on their part 
to imbibe the culture of the older civilizations. A natural 
and praiseworthy desire to create and possess a literature 
which should truly represent the nation began to take root 
and offered a strong incentive to write. However, while 
sharing in this desire for a wider national life, each section 
of the country retained its own peculiar characteristics and 
aims. This would have been very well had each of these 
sections still developed a literature national in its character, 
as, for instance, the German principalities and territories 
did during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, main- 
taining as it were, a unity in variety. But conjoined with this 
sectionalism was a local jealousy which made each section feel 
its own peculiar preeminence as a center of national culture. 
New England, surprising as it may seem, played at first a 
small role in the rise of national literature. She was greatly 
surpassed by the South and the Middle States. There was 
then, as there is now, a tendency to slight the work of the 
South and give Northern writers an undue prominence.'' Yet 

^ Is it not strange," says the Southern Literary Messenger for 
1847, "that men, claimmg to be imbued with a spirit of nationality, 
should be able to show so plainly to foreigners how those things for 
whose absence they reproach us, cannot yet be reasonably expected from 
us, from the stage of progress in which we are, and yet forget both the 
philosophy and the candor which they recommend to the foreigner, 

— 13 — 

an impartial survey shows that the warm, imaginative, and ro- 
mantic Southern nature has contributed most significantly to 
American literature. The failure of critics to allot due recogni- 
tion to Southern influence may be due to her lack of any definite 
schools of writers. The history of Southern culture is largely a 
history of isolated careers. Had the South possessed the same 
advantages as New England, she would undoubtedly have 
achieved results that would have thrown all the weight of 
literary prestige on her side.^° In the Middle States we find 
Philip Freneau from New Jersey and Charles Brockden Brown 
from Philadelphia, both of whom were without New England 
rivals. As late as 1846 Edgar Allan Poe claimed that the auth- 
ors in New York City included one-fourth of all in America. 
Their influence, though seemingly silent, was extensive and 
decisive. From Irving's advent in 1807 to that of Longfellow 
and Emerson, New York was certainly entitled to the distinc- 
tion of being a literary center. But with the founding of the 
North American Review in 1815 in Boston, a new spirit which 
greatly modified the narrowness and sternness of the old Puri- 
tanism entered New England. 

The causes of this shifting of centers of culture is ex- 
plained by the fact that the Southern temperament and the 
Southern mode of life fitted its men to excel in an era of ora- 
tory. When, however, the era changed to one of purely literary 
cultivation, intellectual supremacy, as is noted above, lay first 
with Philadelphia and later with New York.^^ Tom Moore 

and commit toward one portion of their own country a greater folly 

and injustice than the foreigner does to the whole and we do 

scorn that narrow-mindedness which regards Philadelphia, New York, 
and Boston as America." 

i» Cf. Pancoast, Introduction to American Literature, p. 259. 

11 To the student of German American History I need not point 
out the large share which the cultured German element of Pennsylvania 
and New York had in developing the early leadership of Philadelphia 
and New York in matters of literature, music and science. Those 
who are less acquainted with this fact are referred to the following 
books and articles: 

Hallesche Nachrichten, neuherausgegeben mit historischen Erlau- 

— 14 — 

said in 1840 that Philadelphia was the only place in America 
that could boast of a literary society. The cultural sceptre was 
all the more certain of award to the Middle Atlantic States 
from the fact that New England's genius was still, at this per- 
iod, bound by religious prejudice. When the famous group of 
Boston writers broke the bonds, their work bore the stamp of 
a popular movement. This was undoubtedly due to an effort 
on the part of these men to give expression to the ideas and 
ideals of universality and liberality which many of them had 
imbibed in their study and travel in Europe, and especially in 
Germany. The most salient phase of the reaction against the 
stern Puritanical doctrines which held sway in New England 
for so long was, as has already been emphasized, the rise of 
Unitarianism. The effect of this movement on literature was 
remarkable, for it brought with it the assertion of individual 
opinions and freedom of thought. When Unitarianism final- 
ly took an organized form in 1815 it embodied in its creed, if 
it may be said to have a creed, the idea of wider culture. Chan- 
ning, one of its greatest representatives, went to England and 
through Coleridge imbibed and brought back with him the 
"new life" which the latter had found in German thought and 
ideals. With Channing culture was religion. Through Uni- 
tarianism, then, we may say that the gates were opened to the 
intellectual impulses of Europe at a time when the mother 
nations were aglow with new ideas and philosophies. In 1817 
Edward Everett returned from Germany inspired by the new 
great world of thought with which he had met. But New Eng- 
land, as well as the country at large, lacked the thousand beauti- 
ful associations of poetry, legend, and art that gave to Euro- 
pean culture its magic. Longfellow, perhaps more than any 

terungen etc. von W. J. Mann und B. M. Schmucker, Allentown, Pa. 

Commissioner of Education's Report 1897 — 98. Commissioner of 
Education Report for 1901, vol. I. 

Frederick W. Wilkens, "Early influence of German Literature in 
America"; Americana Germanica, vol III,, p. 103 fif. 

H. A. Rattermann, Anfange und Entwickkmg der Musik in den 
Vereinigten Staaten. Jahrhuch der deutsch-amerikanischen historischen 
Gesellschaft von Illinois, vol. XII, p. 327 fif. 

— 15 — 

other native writer, felt the American need for the refining and 
cultivating influences that were so povv^erful in the Old World. 
A fortunate circumstance afforded him, very early in his 
career, the opportunity for study abroad, an opportunity which 
lasted for three years, and which was repeated later in his life. 
His Hyperion shows most decidedly of all his works, how deep- 
ly he was imbued with the German spirit. And with all his 
European culture and the expression he gave to it, he remained 
one of the most popular poets of America, certainly a powerful 
argument for the value of a universal culture in the develop- 
ment of a national culture. 

Absolute self-knowledge, as Goethe remarks, is impossible 
for the individual as well as for a nation. It is here that the 
observation of the friendly critic becomes of the greatest value. 
While American scholars give us a fairly just view of condi- 
tions at that time, the detailed observations and criticisms of 
German students of American life, mentioned above, 
throw a light upon these conditions which is all the more 
interesting because it emanates from men representing the 
cultural ideals which were to become so powerful in America. 

One of the criticisms which Americans frequently made 
upon themselves was that their cultural development as a na- 
tion was haltingly slow. Foreign students of American history 
attribute this belated social ripening to various causes. One 
on which all seem to be more or less agreed is the exaggerated 
emphasis placed upon business and its attendant profits. Koer- 
ner says that even a greater hindrance than the lack of racial 
unity or the defects in educational methods is the subordination 
of science to business. The former is pursued only in so far as 
it is an adjunct and servant to the latter. That merchants had 
no need for a liberal culture seemed to be a national axiom. 
Another explanation suggested by Koerner as partially respons- 
ible for this lack of cultural developm.ent vv'as that America's 
early settlers in New England and elsewhere did not bring a 
literature or history with them, for they belonged for the most 
part to an oppressed people and, with the exception of a few 
learned clergymen, to a class possessed of little general educa- 
tion. They left their fatherland at a time when higher educa- 

— 16 — 

tion was quite generally the prerogative of the rich and power- 
ful. Those, moreover, who did possess education and culture 
before coming to America, F. J. Grund ^^ felt did not differ 
enough from their brothers in Europe to establish at once a 
new national character. The almost daily influx of immigrants 
and the hardships of pioneer life made the basis of liberal 
development, in early times transient and unstable, whereas 
the highest ideal of culture presupposes the production of 
such permanent values in literature, science, music, philosophy, 
and theology, as will be of benefit to the whole of civilized 

At the root of the growth of such a culture lies education. 
The Americans were never lacking in the scholastic 
idea. One of the main motives back of Jefferson's action in 
establishing the University of Virginia was the hope of de- 
veloping a national character by means of a cosmopolitan 
scheme of education." As a foundation underlying all 

12 Franz Joseph Grund (1798—1863) came to America in 1825 or 
1826. In 1833 he wrote a book entitled Algebraic Problems, from whose 
publication dates the introduction of algebra into the American High 
Schools. In addition to this book he also wrote a Plain and Solid 
Geometry, an Elements of Astronomy, a Natural Philosophy, and an 
Advanced Mathematics. After a ten years' residence in Boston pre- 
ceded by a two years' residence in New York and Philadelphia, he wrote 
his The Americans in their Moral, Social, and Political Relations. 
In speaking of this book the American Quarterly Review for December 
1837 said : "It does not seem to have been the intention of Mr. 
Grund to produce merely an amusing book, in which the piquant foibles 
and humorous peculiarities of society are marked and noted, nor does 
he appear in any way content with a superficial glance at things around 

him he writes with the serious purpose of disabusing the English 

public and of conveying true information of the country and people of 
the United States. The work contains abundance of information which, 
even to an American, would be eminently useful." For a period of over 
thirty years beginning about 1830, he was actively engaged in journalism. 
During Buchanan's administration he was consul at Havre. He is 
sometimes called the Schurz of the first half of the nineteenth century. 
Cf. Rattermann, vol. x. p. 70 ff. 

13 The idea of establishing a "federal university" for the purpose of 
"preparing the people of the United States for our new form of Govern- 
ment by an education adapted to the new and peculiar situation of our 

^ 17 — 

subjects the scientific and critical point of view was to be in- 
troduced, the lack of which, as will be noticed later, seemed to 
German students one of the weaknesses in American education. 
His plans were like the preliminary drawings of a great artist. 
Even in their undeveloped state they indicated a remarkable ap- 
preciation of the university idea which had given western Euro- 
pean education such superiority over all other of the world's 
systems. Jefferson's ideal was so thoroughly European that he 
even harbored for a time the idea of transplanting the entire 
teaching corps from the College of Geneva to America ; for 
this faculty, which had become dissatisfied with its political 
environment, had written to him saying that they were willing 
to come to Virginia in a body if suitable arrangements could 
be made. This proposal (1794) was really the historical origin 
of his project for a great university, to be equipped with the 
best scientific talent that Europe could afford, which, strangely 
enough, Jefferson thought was at that time centered in 
Geneva.^^ He appealed to Washington, but the latter, who 
wished to carry out his own ideas of a federal university, op- 
posed the plan. Jefferson laid the proposition also before the 

country" seems to go back to Dr. Benjamin Rush, the eminent 
scientist and surgeon-general in the Revolutionary army, who had 
studied at several European universities and who was a great 
admirer of German civilization. As early as 1788 he published 
in the American Museum an article entitled "A plan of federal 
university" in which he says : "Let one of the first acts of the new 
Congress be, to establish within the district to be allotted for them, 
a federal university, into which the youth of the United States shall 
be received in the colleges of their respective states. In this university 
let those branches of literature only be taught, which are calculated 
to prepare our youth for civil and public life. These branches should 
be taught by means of lectures." 

Among the subjects to be taught at this university he mentions 
especially the German and French languages. He says : "The many 
excellent books which are written in both these languages, upon all 
subjects, more especially upon those which relate to the advancement 
of national improvement of all kinds, will render a knowledge of them 
an essential part of the education of a legislator of the United States." 

^* Cf. "Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia" U. S. Bu- 
reau of Education, Circular of Information No. 2, 1888, p. 45. 

— 18 — 

state legislature but the practical Virginians thought the plan 
too expensive. However, the advanced ideas of the third presi- 
dent, although not fulfilled in this matter, had a quickening in- 
fluence on Ticknor, a close personal friend, and through him 
upon the whole method of instruction at Harvard. Ticknor 
received a call to Virginia in 1820, but continued at Harvard 
until 1835, when his resignation was forced by stubborn op- 
position to just such reforms as would have reorganized the 
northern college in accordance with the principles of university 
education laid down by Jefferson. ^^ 

Perhaps the chief point of weakness in American education 
at that time was the general disregard for scholarship by a dem- 
ocracy whose highest ideal seemed the accumulation of wealth. 
Dr. Brauns, a highly cultured German theologian who lived 
in America for years, says that very few if any of the American 
academies and universities were liberal enough to allow their 
professors to turn to the service of scientific research their 
talent, inclination, and independent thought^® Moreover, the 
recompense given them was scarcely greater than that allowed 
a day-laborer. 

Grund quotes and emphasizes the following statement ^'^ 
from an "Annual Report of the Superintendent of Schools of 
the State of New York, 1835" : "The main cause which re- 
tards the advancement of our educational system is the meager 
wage of the teachers As long as the salary of a teach- 
er is no higher than that of the manual laborer we cannot ex- 
pect to attract scholars of talent and ability to our schools. 

1^ The main points of Jefferson's plan for a university were: 1. 
There should be no prescribed curriculum laid down for all students. 
2. Specialization should be introduced. 3. The elective system should 
be used. 4. Discipline should be reduced to a minimum. The reforms 
proposed by Ticknor were : 1. Students should be admitted even if 
they were not candidates for a degree. 2. The instruction should be 
divided into departments with a head of each department. 3. The 
elective system should be introduced. (Cf. U. S. Bureau of Education, 
Circular of Information No. 2). 

1^ Brauns, Ideen ilher die Auswanderung nach Amerika, 1827, p. 686. 

1^ Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 121. 

— 19 — 

Low salaries have filled our schools with incompetent teachers 
whose methods have lowered the level of all knowledge to their 
own teaching." To the same effect Brauns quotes Bristed, a 
British scholar who came to America to study American re- 
sources and later became a citizen of the United States*. 
"Wealth, that is truly the great social virtue even as poverty is 
an unpardonable sin. In no land of the earth must the poor 
scholar bow before the gates of wealth in more slavish hu- 
mility than in our free and independent Republic." ^^ Com- 
menting on this, Brauns says, "Let not the scholar forget that 
farmers, manufacturers, and merchants are really the three 
main and privileged classes of American society." ^^ In ad- 
dition to pointing out that low salaries necessarily entailed a 
dearth of teachers Bristed, as well as our German critics, re- 
minds us that those scholarly professors whom we do have in 
our schools have a limit placed on their time and energy by 
their great burden of purely routine duties.-" One of Tick- 
nor's great reforms was a division of the faculty into depart- 
ments, with departmental heads, and sufficient assistants to 
make research and original production possible. This was one 
of his proposals that was most stubbornly resisted. In de- 
fending it Jefferson said, "Professorships must be subdivided 
from time to time as our means increase, until each professor 
shall have no more under his care than he can attend to with 
advantage to his pupils and ease to himself." -^ 

Almost all foreign students of American education were 
agreed on the excellence of American elementary training. 
Brauns was especially impressed with the almost universal 
extension of the rudiments of education. — The middle schools, 
however, as Koerner remarked, were rather for the purpose of 

^^ Brauns, Ideen, p. 697. Also Bristed, Die Hilfsquellen der Ver- 
einigten Stoat en Amerikas, Weimar 1819, p. 686. 

i» Brauns, Ideen, p. 697. 

20 Bristed, Hilfsquellen, p. 428. 

-^ U. S. Bureau of Education, Circular of Information No. b, 
p. 64. 

-- Brauns, Ideen, p. 433. 

— 20 — 

private gain than of popular instruction.-^ Parents, generally, 
were not yet impressed with the necessity of educating their 
children beyond the elementary grades. But, as Dr. De Wette, 
the brother of Professor Karl Beck of Harvard, said, after his 
visit to America in 1826, the American youths were wonder- 
fully persevering and diligent. One of the chief expressions 
of this diligence was the zeal with which they took up the study 
of the German language and literature, very little opportunity 
for the pursuit of which was offered at the American universi- 
ties. Even private tutors were not plentiful ; and many students, 
therefore, took up the study by themselves with no other help 
than a dictionary and a few pieces of German literature, of 
which Goethe's and Schiller's works were perhaps the most 
popular. Imagine the American youth of today obtaining the 
rudiments of German through a translation of Wallenstein ! 
Later this method was no longer necessary, for many of the 
professors at Andover, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and else- 
where went to Germany and mastered the German language 
for purposes of instruction at home. It should be noted here 
that this zeal for acquiring German was prompted not by a 
mere hope of understanding its forms, but by an earnest de- 
sire to gain entrance to the treasures of German thought. 

Another significant point to come under the notice of the 
German observers of American culture was what they con- 
sidered a deplorable rarity of interest in science. While Grund 
did not deny the existence of a spirit of scientific inquiry, as 
Koerner came so near doing, he did say that it had few mani- 
festations beyond the information contained in elementary 
texts.^* The one science in which the Americans had made 
slightly more progress was mathematics, and he, probably 
better than any other foreign writer, could judge this be- 
cause he had written several university texts in mathe- 
matics and other sciences. The Germans placed especial 
emphasis on science and scientific research, for to them science 
was eternal even as truth was eternal. "Monarchs may pro- 

23 Koerner, Beleuchtung, p. 46. 

24 Cf. Grund, Die Amerikaner, 1837, p. 105. 

— 21 — 

tect the arts, republics must honor the sciences",'^ said Grund. 
The search for truth would alone establish, in their estimation, 
an enduring national prosperity. It cannot be denied that the 
stern, narrow views of the early American settlers in religion 
and politics retarded all progress in art and science, and this 
despite the great number of universities, colleges, and semi- 
naries.-*^ Brauns quotes Walsh, -^ an American scholar, as 
saying, "A liberal education under which a systematic grasp 
of science and classical literature is understood, is almost en- 
tirely lacking in America." -^ Aside from a few minor dis- 
coveries and inventions in physics and nautical technique, 
purely practical in nature, America had made no advance in 
the field of science.-^ This, at least, was the view of the more 
radical Koerner, who continued to say, "Indeed, I am not the 
first to be impressed by the lack of genuine scientific education, 
and the manifold pleasures which are brought about by the 
closer intercourse of highly cultured and educated men." "'^ 

If, as Grund says, imagination is the soul of artistic pro- 
duction, we have an explanation for the decided deficiency in 
America ; for we do not need Koerner, nor Grund, nor Julius^^ 
to tell us of the neglect of the imagination in the American 
people. Even Cooper, as Koerner truly says, one of the best 
early American writers, and beside Longfellow, perhaps the most 
representative figure in American hterature, excels only in 
description, and not in such work as requires an active and fer- 

25 Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 80. 
-® Koerner, Beleuchiung, p. 51. 

27 Walsh was the original editor of the American Register in 1817 — 
18. In 1827 he revived the North American Review, and continued as 
its editor until 1837. 

28 Brauns, Ideen, p. 685. 

29 Koerner, Beleuchtung, p. 47 

30 Ibidem, p. 47. 

°i N. H. Julius (1783 — 1862) a physician and student of sociology 
especially criminology. He made one of the first and most extensive 
statistical studies in criminology in America. 

— 22 — 

tile creative power.^^ This lack of imagination, Julius feels,^^ 
accounts for the almost cruel way in which the Americans have 
discarded the old musical and resonant Indian names of towns, 
rivers, and mountains, and substituted in their place the harsher 
sounding Roman, Grecian, German, English, and even Egyp- 
tian names. Besides a recognized lack of imagination 
Brauns discovers other causes which have retarded the de- 
velopment of art and literature. These he considers under four 
heads ; first, the comparative ease with which wealth and prom- 
inence are attained through other channels than literature or 
art; second, the hardships of early settlement; third, our own 
Revolution ; and fourth, the French Revolution, which inclined 
the Americans more toward a zeal for gain, military glory, 
and political fame, than to the less strenuous pleasures and 
benefits of literature and art. In addition to these causes, De 
Wette, with others, attributes the retardation of a nationally 
independent literature for America to the constant intercourse 
with Europe; or, as Grund puts it, to the fact that a gigantic 
conglomeration, such as America is, cannot produce a national 
Hterature.-^* Again, Brauns adds as a further cause a lack of 
concentration, due, he believes, to an overbalancing tendency 
toward newspapers, magazines, and pohtical pamphlets."^ As 
a people the Americans read more than any other nation in the 
world ; indeed Grund goes so far as to say that the Americans 
read more books and magazines each year than the English, 
French, and Germans together.^'* John Bristed, after a careful 
study of American culture, remarks also on the shallowness 
of American writings which seemed, for the most part, confined 
to newspaper articles and political pamphlets.^^ 

Concentration presupposes a calm philosophical point of 
view. The lack of this was more noticeable, probably, in 
America's historical productions than elsewhere in the field of 

32 Cooper was more highly esteemed in Germany than in America. 

33 Julius, Nordamei'ikas sittliche Zustdnde, 1834 — 36, p. 420. • 
3* Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 98. 

35 Cf. Brauns, Ideen, p. 681 fif. 

36 Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 104. 
3T Bristed Die Hilfsquellen, p. 685. 

— 23 — 

her literature. Led astray by hyper-enthusiastic patriotism, 
Americans inclined too much toward biographies. Even Jared 
Sparks and George Bancroft, two historians who deserve great 
praise, were unable to take a dispassionate view of America's 
historical development, — the only view, indeed, which is able 
to unite the life of the states with the course of human develop- 
ment. Up to 1837, in Gnmd's estimation. Marshal's Biography 
of George Washington was the best history of the United 

So far it would seem that this lack of imagination affected 
only the literary productions. Koerner's rather bold remark, 
however, that in the field of art the Americans were half bar- 
barians,^® reveals the fact that the lack of imagination extended 
beyond the realm of literature. As yet whatever America pos- 
sessed of art was not original but of foreign adoption. There 
were, of course, individual artists but there was no artistic 
atmosphere, no collective "art-life." **' Even the foremost of 

38 Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 106 See also Pancoast, p 253. 

39 Koerner, Beleuchtung, p. 52. 

*° The following passage from Henry James' "A small Boy and 
others" shows how he felt this lack of artistic atmosphere in America 
during his boyhood. Speaking of his hunger for art he says (p. 
264 ff ) : "Wasn't the very bareness of the field itself moreover a 

challenge, in a degree, to design? Afterwards, on other ground 

and in richer air [in Europe] the challenge was in the fulness and 
not in the bareness of aspects, with their natural result of hunger ap- 
peased ; exhibitions, illustrations abounded in Paris and London — the 
reflected image hung everywhere about; so that if there we daubed a- 
fresh and with more confidence it was not because no one but because 

every one did In Europe we knew there was Art; just as there 

were soldiers and lodgings and concierges and little boys in the 
street etc." 

"The Diisseldorf school commanded the market, and I think of its 

exhibitions as firmly seated, going on from year to year No 

impression here, however, was half so momentous as that of the epoch- 
making masterpiece of Mr. Teutze, which showed us Washington 
crossing the Delaware." 

Emanuel Leutze, the German-American painter, was born at 
Gmiind, Wiirttemberg. He came to America in his early youth but re- 
turned to Germany in 1841 to study at Dusseldorf under K. F. Lessing. 
In 1859 he was called back to America by the federal government in 
order to decorate the Capitol at Washington. 

— 24 — 

early American painters such as Benj. West and J. S. Copley 
were more English than American in character. It is a signifi- 
cant fact that West's famous picture 'Death of General Wolfe' 
was painted in England. However, Grund believed that the 
Americans possessed sufficient talent both in drawing and 
painting to make a truly national art a future possibility.*^ 
That the Americans did not possess any real love or passion 
for true art, a fact which Koerner deplored, was due, no doubt, 
in large measure to the lack of the numerous galleries and col- 
lections of art treasures with which Europe was blessed. 
But despite this lack we must agree, I believe, with 
Koerner, when he says that if gloomy religious views re- 
tarded science they worked even more negatively against the 
development of art,'*^ Music and painting were completely in 
the service of the church. If some art lover succeeded in trans- 
porting a work of art across the Atlantic, it received such a 
poor reception that the hope of arousing an interest which 
would create a demand for such work was shattered. 

Closely allied with drawing and painting were music and the 
theater. The taste for music was slightly more developed than 
for tragedy and comedy, Grund tells us, but as yet there was 
no American talent. Indeed, Julius goes so far as to say that 
the Americans at that time were virtually lacking in the musical 
sense and in musical voices. Of this latter deficiency he says, 
"In the whole of America, during a visit of a year and a half, 
I heard a single beautiful native female voice, and among the 
men none at all." *^ The lack of a musical sense, he thinks, 
may be due to the fact that America was a composite nation 
and not a racial unit. He noticed the same lack in England, 
also a composite people in contrast to Scotland, Ireland, and 
Wales, strictly racial unities. The lack of musical voices, no 
doubt, could be attributed to frontier-life as well as to the 
climate and its almost inconceivably rapid changes. One de- 
cided hindrance to the development of the theater, as well as 

*i Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 74. 
*2 Koerner, Beleuchtung, p. 51. 
*3 Julius, Nordamerikas sittliche Zustdndc, p. 419. 

— 25 — 

its hand-maiden music, was the stifHng bonds of narrow 
orthodoxy which placed the enjoyment of the stage outside 
the pale of respectabihty. Many churches absolutely forbade 
attendance at dramatic performances of any description. Even 
at the present time we have not broken away entirely from the 
effects of this prejudice. 

This, then, was the atmosphere into which Mrs. Robinson 
came in 1830, an atmosphere pregnant with possibilities and 
at the same time teeming with an intense desire to produce and 
establish a national culture. German influence, as we have 
noticed, was having a major share in the process of develop- 
ment. In the follov/ing chapters I shall attempt to trace the 
path of this influence as represented in Mrs. Robinson. I shall 
take up her works chronologically, in so far as that is con- 
sistent with their grouping in subject matter. At the same time 
I shall lay especial emphasis on the various individual produc- 
tions most directly connected with contemporary American 
events or development. What Gustav Koerner says of the 
German element in America in general fits also Mrs Robinson 
and thus forms a most appropriate close for this introductory 
chapter: "Eine deutsche Nation in der amerikanischen 
kann sie nicht sein, aber den reichen Inhalt ihres Gemiitslebens, 
die Schatze ihrer Gedankenwelt kann sie im Kampfe fiir die 
politischen und allgemeinen menschhchen Interessen in die 
Wagschale werfen, und ihr Einfluss wird um so tiefer gehen, 
ein um so grosseres Feld der Beteiligung sich schaffen, je 
weniger tendenzios sie auftritt, je mehr sie aber zugleich an 
dem fest halt, was Deutschland der Welt Schones und Grosses 
gegeben hat." ^* 

Chapter I. 

The names of Franz Lieber, Karl Follen, Karl Beck, Franz 
Joseph Grund, Gustav Koerner, all men of commanding ability, 
have long since become a part of the history of their adopted 
country. Many more men whose life and works H. A. Ratter- 

*^ Koerner, Das deutsche Blement, p. 9. 

— 26 — 

mann has treated in his recent work Biographicon und Dichter- 
Album, will also eventually find a permanent place in the cul- 
tural if not the political history of America. To this list of 
German-Americans who have given to Americans not only an 
interpretation of the culture of their fatherland, but also the 
service of their talent and their personality should be added 
also the name of Mrs. Robinson. 

It is indeed strange that this has not been recognized; for 
her field of labor was broad, her intellect keen, her attitude 
toward life truly sympathetic. From the commencement of her 
active career in 1830, to the year 1863, when she returned to 
Germany, she identified her energies and interests with those 
of the country of her husband, modestly taking a part in the 
cultural evolution of the young republic through a number of 
remarkable literary productions. At no time do' we find her in 
the front ranks of radical reformers and reorganizers, but tact- 
fully and imassumingly, rather, exerting that subtle influence 
for which women are best suited. Her method of making her 
personality felt was a particularly happy one, for at the time in 
which she lived — one of the most important in American His* 
tory — current opinion in regard to conditions both political and 
social was in a comparatively plastic state, but none the less 
important. With politics she had nothing to do; for while most 
of her German contemporaries, coming directly from the ex- 
citement of political affairs in the fatherland, entered similar 
fields in America, she remained entirely outside of this field of 
activity. This is in part explained by the fact that she came 
from the quietness of the Goethe circle, which in a measure 
determined the character of her work in the land of her adop- 
tion. Goethe, it may be said, held aloof from the turmoil and 
intensity of the life about him, quietly spreading his influence 
through the brilliant men and women who were attracted to 
his intellectual court. This was especially true in his later 
life, during which time Mrs. Robinson became personally ac- 
quainted with him. 

Grillparzer, who at that time visited Goethe, draws a 
very charming picture of her in his Selbstbiographie: "To- 
ward evening," he writes, 'T went to Goethe. I found quite 

— 27 — 

a large company gathered in the drawing room, awaiting the 
Herr Geheimrat. When I found among them a certain Hof- 
rat Jakob or Jakobs with his daughter, young as she was 
beautiful, and beautiful as she was talented, the same who 
later entered upon a literary career under the name of Talvj, 
I lost my timidity, and in my conversation with this most 
amiable young woman, I almost forgot that I was at the home 
of Goethe." *^ The description of Heloise, drawn by Mrs. 
Robinson in her novel of the same name, presents a very good 
picture of herself and of the position she deemed suitable and 
becoming to women : "Now only did Heloise learn to know 
the charm of intellectual, inciting conversation, the invaluable 
advantage to be derived from hearing the interchange of ideas 
of superior minds. Heloise, eager for information and sus- 
ceptible of improvement as she was, felt deeply grateful to- 
ward Isabella for this distinction. The conversation turned on 
subjects taken from divers departments, belles-lettres, philos- 
ophy, history, political economy, but above all the great ques- 
tions of the day. On all these Heloise heard persons of mind 
give and defend their views. She herself, as was suitable to 
her youth was for the most part a listener."**^ Mrs. Robinson 
might have said, "to her youth and her sex" ; for she felt very 
strongly the propriety of the tacit attitude of woman on many 
questions ordinarily considered as a part of a man's world.*' 

But, as we have said, her influence was none the less real for 
being quiet and unobtrusive. Despite the unpretentious nature 
of her work, no one, with the exception of Karl Follen, Franz 
Lieber and J. B. Stallo has so significantly brought out the two 
chief elements of the American nation, the English and the 
German. By her study of the folklore of the various nations 
and especially the Teutonic nations, she carried the American 
people into the inner life of the Germans, especially into 
"Das Gemiitvolle". In her history of New England, written, 
according to her own introductory remarks, primarily for Ger- 

•*^ Grillparzer, Sdmmtliche Werke, vol. xv, p. 145 — 4. Auflage. 

*^ Talvj, Heloise chap. ix. , 

*^ The Germans more that any other nation perhaps felt that 
woman's sphere was in the home. 

— 28 — 

man readers, she introduced the Germans to the forces which 
lay at the foundation of the estabHshment of a free-thinking, 
free-acting nation, showing how internal forces of minor im- 
portance in themselves may accomplish all things when united 
and aimed at one goal. 

Therese Albertine Louise von Jakob was born January 26, 
1797, the youngest daughter of the political scientist and 
philosopher, Heinrich von Jakob. At the time of her birth, 
her father was professor of philosophy at the University of 
Halle. When Therese was nine years old Napoleon's devasta- 
tions shook Germany like some great earthquake, and dis- 
organized society. After the battle of Jena her father, in order 
to avoid army-service at a moment when his fatherland was 
under French dominion, accepted a call to a professorship in 
the University located at Charkow a small town in the southern 
part of Russia. The great period of European political unrest 
that drove her parent to this voluntary exile from Germany 
wrought an unusual and irresistible influence upon the daugh- 
ter; an influence, doubtless, which made her love her native 
land far more intensely than would have been the case, had she 
grown to womanhood surrounded by naught but its tranquil 
culture. In 1840 she wrote a short autobiographical sketch for 
the Brockhausische Conversations-Lexicon, in which these 
words illustrate the awakening in her of "das deutsche Gefiihl", 
together with what she considered its causes: "The strange, 
half-Asiatic, half-European circumstances about me exercised 
a decided influence upon me. They and the yoke of oppression 
under which Germany was then bending and laboring awoke 
in me, very early, a vivid and substantial recognition of my 
better self. As early as my eleventh year, I often wept for 
anger and grief over Germany's misfortune. Grief, indeed, 
was my first muse." *^ Nothing, it seemed in after years, 
had ever so thoroughly aroused her as the occasion when she 
heard, for the first time, the Russians discussing the terrible 
distress of the Germans. She heard nothing but scorn and 
mockery for Germany's misfortune, in fact for everything 
that was German. Her thoroughly aroused emotions found 

<8Talvj, Gesatnmelte Novellen, p. viii. 

— 29 — 

expression in poetry which in tone and meter resembled that 
of Schiller. Even as a child, she realized how much richer 
the German life was than the Slavic. She felt that a nation 
with such a past as Germany's would glow again in the rays 
of clear sunrise. 

During her stay of three years in Charkow her education, 
so far as direct instruction was concerned, advanced slowly. 
In the university library, however, she found, among other 
books, Eschenburg's B eispielsammlung and the supplement to 
Sulzer's Theorie der schonen Kiinste. She copied both of these 
books, ponderous in material and dimensions as they are, in 
their entirety; a labor of stupendous proportions for an adult 
to say nothing of a twelve-year-old girl. But she was being 
mentally starved and no task seemed too great that would 
provide food to satisfy her intellectual cravings. 

At the age of thirteen she accompanied her father to St. 
Petersburg, whither he had been called to aid in the revision of 
the Code of Criminal Laws. Here even the slight amount of 
instruction she had been receiving was cut off. In a measure, 
however, her more frequent intercourse with people and events 
made up for this loss ; but the ardent longing never ceased. 
She tells us, "The inner desire remained, however, earnest and 
full of yearning after something which the life about me did 
not offer."*^ Her interest in and for Germany grew apace. She 
read zealously every possible scrap of information about it, 
devouring in particular all the German books she could get 
hold of, books which from time to time found their way into 
Russia through returning officers. In order to give assistance 
to the miserable German prisoners brought to Russia she sold 
her jewelry. Removed thus from the fatherland, it was only 
natural that she should form an exalted image of Germany 
which differed very radically from the reality. In later years, 
she held for a time firmly, almost stubbornly to her ideal ; but 
at last, for her penetrating mind could not long be blinded to 
real conditions, she grew ashamed, laughed, and cast from her 
the romantic picture she had formed by much reading of 
Fouque and Hoffmann. She so realized and appreciated, never- 

*® Talvj, Gesanimelte Novellen, p. x. 

— 30 — 

theless, the depth, the richness, and the spiritual intensity of the 
German character, that even the final shattering of her ideal 
never brought with it a reaction of discouragement or despair. 
While in St. Petersburg she became extremely lonesome, and as 
a consequence unusually serious. This seriousness never left 
her, though at no time did it make her an uncomfortable or un- 
welcome member of any social gathering. It was the serious- 
ness of a rich inner life whose expression was hemmed in and 
limited by external circumstances. None of the poems which 
she wrote at this time were published during her lifetime ; 
in fact it is quite probable that she destroyed most of them, 
for inasmuch as they expressed her deepest and holiest emo- 
tions, to publish them would have been a profanation of her 
inmost soul. Several, however, were preserved. Among them 
the poem "Sehnsucht," written in 1813 and brought out after 
her death, expresses her longing to return to Germany. One 
verse reads as follows : 

Ach, wird nie dies heisse Sehnen, 
Nie der inn'ge Wunsch gestillt? 
Was mein hofifend Herz erfiillt, 
War es nur ein eitel Wahnen? 

In St. Petersburg she had greater opportunity to satisfy 
her craving to read. This, together with bits of conversation 
which she gathered from the crowds that thronged the streets, 
aroused in her a deep and abiding interest in popular poetry. 
She became so interested in Russian popular poetry that she 
would steal away to the horse-markets, and concealing herself 
near the crowds, would listen to their songs. In order to be 
able to understand them and appreciate them she began study- 
ing Russian, a pursuit which very shortly led to a study of 
Slavic history and the Slavic language, in order that she might 
be able to translate the poetry of the race. Upon her return to 
Germany her interest in languages expanded and she entered 
into a serious attempt to gain a mastery of the classical 
languages, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and English. Later 
she studied French and Spanish. 

In 1816 she returned to Germany, and her dearest 
wish was thereby fulfilled. Her reintroduction to the 

— 31 — 

the real Germany, as we have said before, shattered her ideal 
but did not shake her love or faith. In this glow of happiness 
in her new environment, the first eight or ten years were the 
most prosperous of her life. She continued to write poetry 
and short stories. A peculiar unwillingness to publish her 
works asserted itself in rather an interesting way, for which 
her excessive modesty alone can account. Those of her first 
poems which she could be persuaded to share with the public 
came out under the name of Reseda. In 1821, for the sake 
a little "pin-money", and, if we may credit her own words, 
quite against her own inclination, she translated two of Sir 
Walter Scott's novels. Old Mortality and Black Dwarf. These 
were signed Ernst Berthold. In 1822, in the Literarisches Kon- 
vcrsationsblatt appeared three articles of a critical nature, 
signed "Briefe eines Frauenzimmers". Finally, in 1825 she 
coined for herself a name which remained her nom-de-plume 
for the rest of her life. Using the initial letters of her full 
name, Therese Albertine Louise von Jakob, she coined the 
rather odd but attractive name Talvj, in which the j has its 
original function as an i. This name she first signed to a little 
book of three short stories, which she called Psyche, Bin 
Taschenbuch fiir das Jahr i82j. As late as 1840 she wrote to 
a relative, "I will not deny that I have a strong aversion 
to any publication whatsoever of my own productions. The 
fact, that I had never written under my own name, justified 
me, I felt, in separating all that pertained to Therese Robin- 
son, formerly Therese von Jakob, entirely from Talvj. I see, 
however, that sooner or later the two names will be identified 
without my being able to prevent it, and so I prefer to let my- 
self be known rather than be the subject of gossip in those 
'Woman's Clubs'.^" For a long time Talvj was thought to be 
a man. Especially after her interest in the American Indian 
became known, Mr. Talvj became a name of great concern in 
English literature and men fairly broke their heads to discover 
the owner of it. 

In 1823, while Talvj was immersed in grief over the loss 
of a dearly beloved sister, the first sorrow in her life, her 

^^ Loeher, Beitr'dge fiir Geschichte und Volkerkunde. 

— 32 — 

eye fortuitously fell upon a copy of Jakob Grimm's criticism of 
Servian folk song. It caught her attention and suggested a 
means to her by which she might lessen the sting of her sor- 
row. Hard work was ever a means to her of forgetting sorrow 
and distress. In speaking to Jakob Grimm of leaving Germany 
to take up her new home in America she said, "This sacrifice, 
too, belongs to the least which I am making, inasmuch as the 
literary activity into which I have thrown myself, in so far as 
it was productive, never meant anything more to me than a 
meager solace for bitter loss." °^ Her cousin said of her also, 
"My poor cousin finds her consolation for many distressing 
circumstances in such literary activity." '^ By the aid of the 
young Servian Wuk Stephan Karadschitsch and her own untir- 
ing effort and mental alertness she soon made good her decision 
to study Servian by achieving a sound working mastery of its 
forms. Into the very atmosphere of these strange national 
songs which seemed to possess a Grecian charm for her, she 
"lived, thought, and steeped herself." ^^ Her work in this con- 
nection will be more amply touched upon hereafter ; suffice it to 
say here, the work she accomplished with these songs won for 
her the life long friendship of Goethe, as well as that of Jakob 
Grimm and many other prominent literary men. 

In the summer of 1826 Professor Edward Robinson came 
to Halle to study the language and literature of the Orient 
under Gesenius, through whom Halle's theological school had 
become the most famous in Germany, Roediger, an exceptional 
student in oriental languages first at Halle and later at Berlin, 
Tholuk the pietist, and others. His acquaintance in the home of 
Professor von Jakob led to friendship and ultimate marriage 
with Fraulein Therese, in August of 1828. A few words other 
than what has been said in the Introduction about Robin- 
son will show not merely the significance of Talvj's relations 
with him but also the significance of German influence on 
America's great scholars. He was born in Southington, Con- 

21 Preussische Jahrbiicher, vol. Ixxvi p. 357. 
^^ Preussische Jahrbiicher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 357. 

S3 Franz von Loher, Beilage sur Allgemeinen Zeitung, den 9. und 
10 Juni, 1870. 

— 33 — 

necticnt in 1794, the son of a Congregational minister. As 
a youth he enjoyed a liberal education, which later he im- 
proved by much travel and study in other lands. Previous 
to his residence at the University of Halle in 1826, he had 
assisted Moses Stuart in publishing the second edition of the 
latter's Hebrew Grammar, and through Stuart had been ap- 
pointed to an instructorship in Hebrew at Andover Semi- 
nary, where, in collaboration with his patron, he translated 
Wiener's Grammar of the Neiv Testament; and alone, Wahl's 
Clavis Philologica Novi Testamenti. Then he went to Halle. 
At the time of his death he was recognized as the greatest 
authority in the field of Biblical Topography, having received, 
among other honors, a gold medal from the Royal Geographi- 
cal Society of England. 

His attitude toward research was in every way a counter- 
part of his wife's. The Reverend Thomas Skinner, who 
preached his funeral service, said of him, "No one's observa- 
tion was more searching, minute, and accurate; he looked at 
everything in its bearing on the true, the useful, the good ; he 
surveyed most exactly everything of real importance in the 
field which his mind was to traverse, instinctively rejecting 
what was of no consequence to his object, making the best 

use of everything which properly belonged to it His 

aim was not victory but truth He found in his family 

uimsual sympathies with himself as a man of letters and in- 
tellectual pursuits. His wife was entirely competent to take 
the liveliest interest in his learned labors." " It it very signifi- 
cant of his character that during this first half of the nine- 
teenth century he with others sought to become acquainted 
with the spirit of German thought and teaching. In the first 
part of the century it meant a great deal more for Americans 
to seek the German universities than it did later. It was not a 
fad; it was an honest pursuit of a higher intellectual life. 
And it was of great significance that even theologians began 
to visit the German universities, the seats of rationalism in 
religious thought and life. The necessity of an introduction 
of Germany's scholarship into America must have made a deep 

5* The Evangelist, Feb. 5, 1863. 

— 34 — 

impression upon Robinson, for upon his return, as we have 
seen, he began the pubhcation of the Biblical Repository, which 
at once became the chief exponent of German theological and 
philosophical thought. His wife proved of the utmost assist- 
ance to him in interpreting and translating many of the German 
contributions to the magazine. 

It was hard for Talvj to decide to leave Germany, for in 
so doing she was abandoning a circle of the highest culture and 
refinement, and circumstances in which she was able to pursue, 
unhampered, the studies she most enjoyed. In a letter to Jakob 
Grimm, in which she introduced Edward Robinson to him, she 
said, "I do not deny that it has cost me a long and bitter 
struggle, and that even now I think I have not overcome either 
the pain of separation from all that has been dear to me, or 

the pain over the loss of my beloved mother-tongue 

it seems to me as if all that pertains to my fatherland is again 
as precious, since I have made my decision." ^° An awaken- 
ing literary jealousy of her work, finding vent in literar}' 
criticism that was at times spiteful, did much, however, to re- 
concile her to leaving Germany. Some criticised her for not 
writing in Latin, claiming that the use of the vernacular de- 
tracted in a measure from the scholarliness of her work. Her 
intellectual strength, which gained not only the respect but al- 
so the admiration and approval of some of Germany's great- 
est men, aroused the envy of less gifted women. Loeher 
remarks : "The women said one could hear the scratch, scratch 
of her pen throughout the whole town ; and this pen was in 
the hands of a young woman of less than thirty years, upon 
whom noted men even lavished approving words of praise." ^"^ 
The hopeless political conditions following the Wars of 
Liberation seemed, moreover, to annihilate all her hopes for 
Germany's future. Besides, the closest ties which bound her 
to her fatherland were broken by the death of her beloved 
parents; her father's in 1827 at Lauchstedt, her mother's in 
1828 presumably at Halle. Although she became the wife of 
Edward Robinson in August, 1828, they did not go to America 
until to years later. During only a portion of these intervening 

55 Preussische Jahrhucher, vol. Ixxvi p. 357. 

— 35 — 

two years they remained in Halle, for they spent an autumn in 
Switzerland, a winter in Paris, and a summer in Italy. In other 
ways, too, they were eventful. During the seven years preceding 
her coming to America she had lost a brother, a sister, and both 
parents. She felt her loss deeply when she said, "For seven 
years shock after shock has come to me, and even if I now pos- 
sess new conditions of tenderest love, it seems, nevertheless, 
as if all of my memories lie buried." ^^ 

Her first home in America was in Andover, where Edward 
Robinson now occupied the chair of Biblical Literature at the 
Andover Seminary. She did not quickly adjust herself to her 
new surroundings for political and religious interests held 
sway in all companies ; and she withdrew for a time to her 
own family circle and lived for it alone. Gradually, however, 
she began to find leisure again for literary investigation and 
soon, by her interest in America, in its industry, its history, 
its natives, its language, and its literature, she formed a link, 
as it were, between German and American culture. She 
brought from her native land the idea of universality, and 
in all the articles and reviews written during her life here, it 
was one which she emphasized prominently. She worked 
as few other writers have done for the adjustment of the two 
languages, German and English. Jakob Grimm foresaw her 
power to do this for in a letter written to her just before she 
sailed, he spoke of the valuable benefits to be derived from a 
more intimate relation to the English literature in which she 
would soon find herself. Unnoticed but with efifect she labored 
always to inculcate respect for the German name in the new 
world ; wherever she could she urged young Americans to 
study at the German universities ; and she used her influence 
always to find for German fugitives, invariably men of edu- 
cation, positions as teachers.'"^ With an interest and mental 
energy peculiar to her, she began very shortly after her ar- 
rival in America, a study of the Indian, transferring, as it were, 
her scientific investigation and study to the red race from the 

^"^ Preussische Jahrbiicher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 359. 
■^ Franz von Loher, Beilage z. A. Zeitung. 
08 Idea from Loher. 

— 36 — 

Servian. She saw in the life and customs of all original peoples 
the seed of present growth and the plant of future develop- 
ment. She perceived behind the painted and savage exterior, 
the real man. She realized, as many of us do not, that in order 
to penetrate to the real motives and ambitions of a people, we 
must seek them in its language, for language is the outgrowth 
and development of the life of a people, and not a mere arti- 
ficial commodity made to the order of its convenience or 

In 1831 Edward Robinson established the Biblical Reposi- 
tory, to which during the first four years he was the chief 
contributor. Mrs. Robinson's first resumption of literary work 
took the form of contributions to this magazine. In speaking 
of her papers in the Repository, which were collected and 
translated by C. von Olberg in 1837, Jakob Grimm said, "It 
is a work which bears the stamp of strong fundamental know- 

In 1833 they moved to Boston, where she helped her hus- 
band with the publication of a Lexicon of the Greek Testa- 
ment. Here she became acquainted with Karl Follen and his 
talented wife, to whom she has testified her gratitude for the 
inspiration of a renewed interest in philological studies. Her 
extensive linguistic ability made her peculiarly fitted to carry 
out a piece of work Follen had previously considered — the in- 
troduction of German popular poetry into America ; and at his 
request she proceeded with the task, one as yet scarcely initiated, 
although Follen had already succeeded in getting Longfellow, 
John Quincy Adams, Bancroft, Prescott, Channing, Parker, 
and others interested in German philosophy and literature. 
Mrs. Robinson came as his great co-worker in extending 
this interest. From time to time her articles on "Popular Songs 
of the Teutonic Races" appeared in the North American Re- 
view, and in 1840 they were put into book form under the 
title of Charakteristik der VolksUeder. 

In 1837, following her husband's appointment to the Union 
Theological Seminary in New York, she left her circle of 
friends at Boston. Immediately after entering upon this work 
at the new institution Robinson went on a tour of investigation 

— 37 — 

to Europe, Palestine, and Egypt, accompanied by his wife, 
who, however, remained in Hamburg, Leipzig, and Dres- 
den. During her stay in Germany she published more works 
dealing with popular songs. With the knowledge, spirit, and 
keenness of a German professor, and the intuition and sym- 
pathy of a woman, she seemed to possess a peculiar aptitude 
for such studies as this. In the naivete of primitive songs, 
she traced the life-springs of a nation. There is no ques- 
tion but that her already broad interest in mankind was 
broadened and enlarged through these studies, which in their 
scope touched upon the songs of France, Russia, Slavonia, 
Spain, Germany, Scandinavia, England, Scotland, and Ameri- 
ca. Through her critical essay on Ossian not Genuine in 1840, 
she brought to a close, at least for many years to come, the 
dispute over the genuineness of Macpherson's Ossian, which 
Samuel Johnson had done so much to intensify. Her essay 
called forth a storm of contradiction, which, however, was 
totally incapable of destroying its effectiveness. 

Upon her husband's return from Palestine in 1840, Mrs. 
Robinson returned to America. Her home in New York be- 
came the rendevouz for educated people, where some of 
America's most famous literary men and women met in social 
intercourse. A few personal letters to Mrs. Robinson, found 
among the remnants of books and papers now in possession of 
her grandson Edward Robinson of New York, show that 
among others Bancroft, Bryant, Bayard Taylor, Olmstead, and 
Kohl were her frequent guests. ^^ With such an able, though 
altogether modest, woman as hostess to the educated men and 
women of her day, we can easily realize the charm of con- 
versation, the brillancy of ideas exchanged, the unconscious 
and subtle influence of one great mind upon another which 
must have taken place within her walls ; in winter at her New 
York residence, in summer at her picturesque seat among the 
Catskill mountains. 

In her own intellectual history these acquaintanceships, 
some of them transient, others enduring, counted for much. 

59 Unfortunately a fire destroyed almost all of the manuscripts left 
by Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. 

— 38 — 

A friendship with Friederich von Raumer, the German his- 
torian, who visited her in her New York home in 1844, gave 
her the idea of entering the field of history. This idea was 
strengthened by Albert Gallatin and other of her friends in 
the city. It was just the time when a great movement was on 
foot to collect the sources of American history. The task ap- 
pealed to her inclination to delve into national pasts. Societies 
for such study were being formed everywhere, and to one 
such of which Albert Gallatin was president, both Robinson 
and his wife belonged. As her share in the programs Mrs. 
Robinson wrote several historical sketches ; among them was 
"Die Geschichte des Kapitan John Smith", which was pub- 
lished in 1847 in Raumers Historisches Taschenbuch. This 
same year appeared one of her principal works, a history of the 
colonization of New England from 1607 to 1692. Critics differ 
as to the significance of this latter production ; but the gist of 
contemporary comment as gathered from newspapers and 
magazines of 1847, will be presented in a later chapter. Her 
literary-historical Vvorks were in many respects epoch making, 
even if her purely historical works were not. Duyckink says 
of them, "Her style is simple and she is unsurpassed and 
practical in her learned and scientific representation of such 
literary historical subjects as 'Popular Poetry of the Slavic 
Nations' etc. She also possesses the advantage of a finely 
poetic culture, which because of her love for the original makes 
it possible for her to translate with especial completeness in- 
to German or English verse." '^^ 

Her friendship with Washington Irving, which dated 
from 1846, inclined her again toward the field of poetiy. Her 
development in this field of activity, however, does not stand 
out prominently. Her poetry, while it cannot be said to have 
detracted in any respect from the brilliancy of her work, can- 
not on the other hand be said to have added anything. Aside 
from her folk-songs, but fifteen poems have been published. 
These occupy a very small portion of the book entitled Ge- 
sammelte Novellen, published by her daughter after Talvj's 
death. We know from what she herself said or implied that 

«o Cyclopedia of American Literature, vol. ii, p. 169. 

— 39 — 

she destroyed many of her first efforts. Between the years 
1826 and 1845 we find no poems at all; for 1845 we have a 
single verse, written in her daughter's album ; while the next 
which appears in this small group of fifteen bears the date 
1850. We cannot be sure that these poems in any way repre- 
sent the sum total of her poetic work, but they are the only 
collection which has ever been published. We may perhaps 
conclude rightly, that poetry as such was in no way a congenial 
form of expression for her during her life in America until 
after her friendship with Irving and even after that time not 
an apt instrument. At this we cannot be surprised, however, 
if we consider the fact that hers was the philological and 
scientific type of mind, and not the philosophical and emotional 

Aside from her original works during her life in America, 
she made several translations of the results of her husband's 
investigations. Among them, perhaps the two most important 
were Neue biblische Forschungen in Palestine and Physische 
Geographie des heiligen Landes. The latter was made, in 1865, 
amid greatly changed surroundings, for after the death of her 
husband in 1863 she returned to her beloved Germany where 
she spent the rest of her life. During these years she lived at 
various times in Berlin, Italy, Strassburg, Karlsruhe, and 
Hamburg. She died at the latter place on April 13, 1870; her 
body was brought to America and buried in New York. 

Her circle of friends was large both in America and in 
Europe. In Germany it numbered K. L. W. Heyse, Franz 
Bopp, Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, Wilhelm and Alexander 
von Humboldt, Friederich von Raumer, and Goethe; in 
America, Bayard Taylor, William Cullen Bryant, Frederick 
Olmstead, George Bancroft, J. C. Kohl, Washington Irving, 
Edward Everett, E. A. Duyckink, and Margaret Fuller; in 
Russia, Kaschin and Makarow ; in Servia, Dawidowitsch and 
Miklosch; in Italy, Manzoni, Emiliani, Gindici, and Madame 
Ferrucci ; in England, Carlyle. She always held a remarkable 
sway over youthful minds, both in inspiring them to definite 
literary productions, and in infusing into them a measure of 
her own ambition and energy. She was the inspiration behind 

— 40 — 

Hermann Kriege's Die Vdter der Republik, his George Wash- 
ington, Thomas Payne, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jef- 
ferson. Her husband was indebted to her for a large part of 
his knowledge of the German language and its literature. I 
feel I have not judged wrongly when I say that much of the 
work in the Biblical Repository during her husband's editor- 
ship may be attributed to her either directly or indirectly. And 
in all her books there is a wealth of thought expressed which 
seems to bear the stamp of her keenly scientific brain and 
sympathetically sensitive appreciation of all liberal and idealistic 

She was deeply religious, for, as Loeher says, "How could 
this truly strong spirit have lived and succeeded without a 
deep childlike faith in God and his providence ?" *^^ She ob- 
jected to being considered "eine gelehrte Frau" only, for this 
was not the goal of her ambition. She strove to awaken love 
and confidence, to sympathize always where sympathy would 
avail, to help the needy and distressed, to be a wife to her 
husband and a mother to her children in the true sense. Hers 
was a nature entirely free from pettiness and untruth, a na- 
ture thoroughly feminine. She loved youth and was perfectly 
at home with young people. Unlike man}-^ women, she took a 
keen interest in the broader political movements in Germany 
and America. This interest, however, did not lead her at any 
time to assume an attitude which could be criticised as bold 
and unwomanly. Indeed, in almost every personal reference 
to her by contemporary critics the terms "modest" and "tender" 
appear. She knew a woman's place, and although endowed 
with unusual powers she held herself always within the 
boundaries of her worthy station.^^ A glimpse of her attitude 

•^1 Loher, Beitrage z. a. Zeitung. 

62 In the Memorial History of the City of New York, vol. 3, p. 494, 
Mrs. Robinson's name appears among the first signers of a circular ad- 
dressed to the "Women of New York" and especially to those already 
engaged in preparing against the time of "Wounds and Sickness in the 
Army". It was the germ of the most important auxiliary to the medical 
department of the Union armies which the war created — The Sanitar\' 
Commission. She was also president of a "Women's Association for 
the care of Orphans". 

— 41 — 

toward her home and its duties draws us even more closely 
to her. It was a matter of pride with her that she never turned 
her attention to her writing or study until she had put her 
house in order for the day. A word of praise from her hus- 
band about her skill as a housewife meant more to her than any 
praise as a writer. But that he valued her literary skill we 
also know from what she herself says of him : "Robinson be- 
longs, indeed quite fortunately to the few men who know how 
to appreciate a lively interest in art and science, even among 
women; and he would rather arouse my enthusiasm toward 
literary activity than hold me back from it." ^' 

From a description on a passport granted to her in 1851 
at the age of 54 years, we learn that she was five feet, one and 
one-half inches tall, had blue eyes, blond hair, and a fair com- 
plexion. Her husband was a man six feet tall, dark of hair 
and skin. Two children, Edward and Mary survived them. 
The former was an officer in the Civil War at the time of his 
father's death. He resigned his position, however, and ac- 
companied his mother to Germany, where he filled the office 
of consul at Strassburg and Hamburg during the years 1865 
to 1875. In the latter year he returned to America, and 
practiced law in New York City until his death in 1894. Two 
sons and one daughter at present represent the family, Ed- 
ward Robinson of the firm of Ruggles and Robinson, Engin- 
eers, in New York City, and Hope Hobinson Hitchcock and 
Herman Robinson, who reside in the Berkshires of Massa- 
chusetts. Mary Robinson, Talvj's daughter died in New York 
City in 1906. She attained considerable prominence in music, 
being a composer as well as a finished pianist . 

In all justice Mrs. Robinson may be called one of the most 
important writers of her sex. Goethe spoke of her as one "who 
had the heart of a woman, but the brain of a man." ®* Her 
daughter pays her a beautiful eulogy in the introduction to 
Gesammelte Novellen. In part she says, "The blessing of 
these characteristics — most loving mother and wife, most care- 
ful and cautious housewife — fell upon those who were nearest 

'^3 Preussische Jahrbilcher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 357. 
** Cyclopedia of British arid American Authors. 

— 42 — 

to her, those whose very existence was woven into hers. They 
knew best her warm loving heart, her conscientiousness, her 
stem feeling of duty, the entire lack of self-seeking in her 
nature. To them she disclosed her deeply religious sentiment, 
her reverence for God, and her complete resignation to His 
will in order to attain to man's highest effort. They knew, 
too, that the faults, from which naturally she was not free, 
were a part of her temperament and not her character, and 
that the shadows cast by these faults served only to intensify 
the light of her character. And they are the ones who have 
lost the most, and whose loss can never be replaced." '^^ 

Chapter II. 
Literary Activity Prior to Coming to America. 

It was not until Talvj's criticisms began to appear from 
time to time in the Literarisches Conversationsblatt that she 
really entered the literary field. These, as before, appeared 
anonymously, but under the general title "Briefe eines Frauen- 
zimmers iJber einige neue Erscheinungen der Literatur." In 
the "Blatter" for 1822 there are three articles by her; and 
in them reference is made to preceding as well as the follow- 
ing articles. However, from the fact that as early as 1823 
she became interested in Servian folk-songs, we may infer 
that after that date her ventures into the field of criticism 
were few. 

Pustkuchen, a preacher and writer of the first half of the 
nineteenth century had attracted no inconsiderable attention 
by his captiously critical attitude toward Goethe's Wilhelm 
Meister. The tone of hostility toward Goethe which pervaded 
his books, uniting a harsh judgment of both his personality 
and works, excited the resentment of a hero-worshipping pub- 
lic. Talvj's review of Pustkuchen's two works, "Ueher Wil- 
helm Meisters Tagebiich vom Verfasser der IVanderjahre, and 
Ueher die Gedankcn einer frommen Grafin, which had ap- 
peared in 1821 and 1822 respectively, shows a keen and just 

*5 Gesammelte Novellen, Introduction, p. xxviii and xxix. 

— 43 — 

intellect. Her whole examination is conducted in the spirit 
of the eighteenth century essayists and reviewers who read into 
the meaning of the word 'criticism' a much fuller significance 
than we now ascribe to it ; and she, like they, assumes in the 
duty of the critic two functions, one to separate the genuine 
from the non-genuine, as a second to judge or set a standard 
for the beautiful. It is unfortunate that Talvj's excursions 
into the department of Hterary criticisms were not more nu- 
merous after taking up her work in America, especially in 
view of the fact that so much of America's literature bore the 
stamp of a labored and artificial imitation. The check on such 
literature, naturally is just such broad-based literary criticism 
as that in which Talvj had exhibited her breadth of mind, 
acuteness, and good judgment. To illustrate, in introducing 
her critical review of Ueber Wilhelm Meister Tagebuch she 
says: "There appear among the expressions of this clever 
diary many which seem to me to be false, many distorted, and 
then, too, many which are significant." She adds, "Among 
all of them I find a truly ingenious connection and consequence 
of an excellent thinker, self-reliant almost to stubborness some- 
times." '^ She then proceeds to analyze the piece part by part. 
But she does not stop with mere analysis ; she draws compar- 
isons and makes suggestions. She evinces in a letter to Jakob 
Grimm a desire to be accorded just the sort of criticism she 
herself tries to give. She says among other things, "... 
in this case I wish to hear, fearlessly given, the voice of truth 
only." " 

After discussing the weaknesses and deficiencies of Pust- 
kuchen's book, Talvj turns to a consideration of its various 
merits. "How gladly," she says "I pass to the excellent, the 
new, and the beautiful, which form so predominant a part of 
this book." In such a criticism an author cannot feel that the 
view taken of his work by his critic has been colored by per- 
sonal prejudice. It must appeal to him as the honest and un- 
biased opinion of an acute and trained intellect; instead of 
antagonizing, it must spur him on to greater effort. We are 

66 Conversationsblatt, No. 17, 1822. 

*'' Prenssische Jahrbucher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 348. ' ' 

-^ 44 — 

told, or rather she tells us herself in her short autobiography, 
that she enjoyed this kind of work. It was a challenge to her 
ever-present inclination to investigate and to connect causes 
and effects. 

In her review and criticism of Ueber die Gedanken einer 
frommen Gr'dfin, which appeared in No. 90 of the Conversa- 
tionsblatt for 1822, she brings out very strongly a conviction 
which we find her maintaining throughout her life. Pustkuchen 
had expressed in this work a characteristically pessimistic sen- 
timent : "Thus man torments himself to become religious and 

for his efforts wins nothing but empty illusion My duty 

is eternal love and still I cannot attain to it." Talvj answers, 
"No one who recognizes the sublime happiness of inner faith 
will be able to read these gloomy words without deep serious- 
ness and painful sadness. If they were true, if all our efforts 
and our strivings, if our deepest conclusions were in vain, if 
the right physician did not lend a willing ear to our burning 
desires, if we should have to wait until he came to us, in order 
to lead us through his grace, how insignificant, how depressing, 
how humiliating this human life would be." 

In this criticism a chance but deeply serious allusion to 
herself as an "ungelehrtes Frauenzimmer" bears witness to 
her possession of a sense of unworthiness for the office of a 
literary arbiter. In a way the term 'ungelehrt' was true, for 
she lacked the formal preparation found within academic walls, 
and had enjoyed little even of a tutor's training. However, 
none but herself would have called her 'ungelehrt.' The scope 
of her interest was very wide, and her scholarship in each of 
her varied fields was far above the average. She speaks also 
of the 'limitations of her capabilities.' Because of this very 
consciousness of her limitations, what she says and the way 
she says it appear absolutely genuine, and in being genuine 
assume the character of the honest conviction of an unbiased 
mind trained to think for and through itself. 

The third article in the C onversationshlatt for 1822 is a re- 
view of Grillparzer's Das goldene Vliess, in which the critical 
element is greatly outweighed by a resume of the subject matter 

— 45 — 

— a rendition of the story in miniature. A few years later, 
in 1826, she met Grillparzer at the home of Goethe in Weimar. 
The most important piece of work done by Talvj during 
this period, and indeed, according to the opinion of many, the 
most important Hterary achievement of her lifetime, was her 
VolksUeder der Serhen. As early as 1756 a Dalmatian, by 
name Kacio-Miosic, made a collection of popular ballads of 
Slavonic peoples, analogous to that which Bishop Percy did 
for England and Scotland in 1765, when he published his 
Reliques. In 1814 Wuk Stephanovitsch Karadschitsch pub- 
lished a four volume collection at Leipzig, noatble in that it 
inspired Jakob Grimm to give to the German people, in the 
version of a German poet, the first of these songs that they had 
read since the time of Herder. Through Jakob Grimm, more- 
over, Wuk Stephanovitsch was brought into friendly relation 
with Goethe, and was able to induce him, in turn, to entertain 
a lively interest in Slavonic poetry. Goethe published some of 
Wuk's translations, and some of Grimm's as well, in his Kunst 
mid Altertum. Finally, Jakob Grimm's public recommenda- 
tion of the Servian popular poetry, aroused the curiosity of 
Therese von Jakob, or Talvj, and she began the study of Ser- 
vian, which, probably because of a strong foundation for it 
which she had in her knowledge of Russian, she mastered with 
unusual rapidity. By 1826 she had translated and published 
two volumes of VolksUeder der Serben. She had heard that 
Goethe was taking a decided interest in the Servian literature, 
and so she ventured, despite an almost overpowering timidity, 
to write to him and tell him of her proposed work. At the 
time she sent her first letter to him, she also sent a few of the 
songs she had already translated. ^'^ Goethe received her letter 
and translations in the most cordial manner, and from that 
time until the completion of her work she maintained a most 
interesting and profitable correspondence with him. Three 
times during the period, she met him personally at Weimar 
and discussed the work with him. It had always been Goethe's 
conviction that in order to arouse the proper atmosphere for 
the reception of popular poetr}^, the songs or poems must be 

«8 April 12, 1824. 

— 46 — 

presented in a mass and not in isolated form. Only in this 
way, among so much of limitation, poverty, and superficiality 
could its accompanying richness, breadth, and depth be realized. 
It is no more fair to judge a nation by a few selections of pop- 
ular songs than it is to judge an author by one or two of his 
works. The fact that Talvj was aiming to present her transla- 
tions in this collected form pleased Goethe very much, and he 
encouraged her in most cordial phrases. In speaking of her 
work in Kunst und Altertum he said. "In this matter, as things 
now stand, nothing could be more pleasing than that a young 
woman of peculiar talent and fitness for handling the Slavonic 
language, acquired by a previous residence in Russia, should 
conclude to make a study of the Servian, devoting herself to 
this treasure of song with remarkable zeal She trans- 
lates without external incentive, from an inner inclination and 

judgment and she will arrange in a volume as many of 

the poems as she needs in order to acquaint himself with this 
extraordinary poetry." ^^ Goethe's approval was the spark 
of stimulation Talvj needed. Two motives lay back of her 
work, one was to lessen the sting of her grief over the recent 
death of a brother, and the other to please Goethe whom she 
loved above all poets. 

Jakob Grimm criticised her work as being too much a ger- 
manizing of the Servian. When, at her request for his criti- 
cism, he sent her this statement, "I do not understand why 
much or all should be germanized, and I believe that our own 
language is weakened in the process," '^'^ she replied with rather 
astonishing frankness ; "Indeed, if the folk-songs do not be- 
long among that which is to be germanized, why should the 
fables, so closely related to them, be translated? Whether 
poetry or prose, it is one and the same." ''^ And again she 
says, "I cannot deny that my idea of a good translation does 

not harmonize with yours I find that the better we 

know a language, the less it occurs to us to translate it liter- 

'^^ Kunst und Altertum. Weimar Ed., vol. xli — xlii, p. 149. 
'"^ Preussische Jahrbiicher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 348. 
'''^ Ibidem, p. 349. 

— 47 — 

allv. "- In another reference to her translation she remarks 
that she has tried to make it as faithful as the entirely different 
spirit of the two languages will permit, often, for this rea- 
son, throwing it into a purely literal form. She has never al- 
lowed a simple or strong portrayal in the original to be changed 
or swallowed up by rhetorical adornment. Goethe studied the 
translations by both Grimm and Talvj, and then made the fol- 
lowing statement : "Grimm's translation in its strict adherence 
to the original, was for him the most desirable. Inasmuch as 
he himself was not master of any Slavic dialect he, to a cer- 
tain extent, approximated the original ; thus only could he pro- 
cure a sympathy for the word-order and rythm of the Servian 
songs. His aim was to lead back to the original text, but this 
more scholarly attitude was not a feasible one for the more 
general public, whose aim was appreciation rather than study. 
On the other hand, Talvj 's more free and happy translation was 
able to make the most vigorous hero-legends and the tenderest 
love songs of this foreign nation the common property of Ger- 
many. ^^ 

In October of 1826 Talvj met Jakob Grimm in Cassel. His 
attitude toward her at first seemed to lack the enthusiasm which 
later marked it so strongly. Perhaps he who was then an au- 
thority in the field of folk-lore and myth had an apprehensive 
suspicion that hers was the work of a dilettante; and what 
seemed like a jealous impatience of her intrusion upon his 
interests was in reality the resentment of a highminded scholar 
for anything which obscured the truth. At any rate, his at- 
titude latter became one of decided admiration for both the 
woman and her ability. This changed view-point was shown 
twice — once by his cordial expression of approbation when her 
work appeared, and again by the expression of a concrete 
act of kindness and deference. In 1837, when her hus- 
band set out upon his tour of investigation to Palestine, she 
returned to Germany, spending a part of the time during the 
next three years in Dresden. While here, Jakob Grimm un- 
expectedly paid her a visit and discussed his plan for a 'Wor- 

72 Ibidem, p. 349. 

■^3 R. Steig, Goethe und die Briider Grimm, p. 180. 

— 48 — 

terbuch' with her, in regard to which he was even then on his 
way to Saxony. 

A letter from Professor Jakob, a cousin of Talvj's, to Grimm 
contains this acknowledgment, "Yon introduced the Servian 
poems of my cousin to the public in such a friendly way." '^* 
Jakob Grimm's approval, no doubt, meant m.uch, but Goethe's 
cordial and lively interest was really the chief factor in assuring 
to the book the instantaneous favor with which it met. I am 
thoroughly convinced that the book would, if left to rest upon 
its own merits, ultimately have attained to the same apprecia- 
tion ; but without such adventitious aid the process would have 
been a slow one. We must remember that Talvj was compar- 
atively unknown in the field of literature, so that the name of 
the author was not 'open sesame' to popularity. She quite natur- 
ally wished to dedicate the book to Goethe. He accepted the 
compliment with pleasure, but did not feel competent to comply 
with her request that he write a preface; however he recom- 
mended it to the public through his Kiinst tend Alteruni. The 
dedication took the form of three beautiful verses, the last of 
which is especially worth quotation : 

Drum, hoher Meister, die zwiefach Dein eigen, 

Die Blatter reich ich Dir, und zage nicht ! 

Dein Wink rief sie ermuthigend ans Licht. 

Vielleicht, dass Manchem ihre Rathsel schweigen, 

Dass unverstanden ihre Stimme spricht ; 

Dein Beifall geniigt und biirgt, sie offenbare 

So Dichtrisch-Schdnes, wie das Menschlich-Wahre. 

In speaking with Eckermann on January 18, 1825, Goethe 
said, "I rejoice over this intellectual woman in Halle, who has 
introduced us into the Servian world with a man's strength of 
mind. The poems are excellent ! There are some among them 
which are worthy of being placed beside the 'Song of Songs,' 
and that means a great deal." '^' 

In Kiinst und Alterhnn we find the work mentioned as one 
of the three beautiful gifts to German poetic literature. In 
order of greatness, beauty, and worth Goethe mentions : Ser- 

^* Preussische Jahrbucher, vol. Ixxvi, p. 362. 
^5 Gesprache mit Eckermann. 1825. 

— 49 — 

hische Lieder libersetzt von Talvj, Lettische Lieder von Rhesa 
and Frithiof durch Amalia von Helvig-Aus dem Schwedischen. 
In another reference, again, she is mentioned with Jakob 
Grimm and Herr Gerhard. To no one of these three writers 
does Goethe give preeminence in this field. Wuk Stephano- 
vitsch and Kopitar both gave her valuable assistance by sug- 
gesting to her certain of those peculiarities of the Servian 
language for which none but a native-born could possess a 
real sympathy and appreciation. That the work met with the 
approbation not merely of both these Servian scholars, but of 
others as well, we may gather from a letter which she re- 
ceived from some of the young Servian students who were 
studying in Germany. What they wrote to her is of especial 
interest at the present time: ''The Servian people, robbed 
of every interest in the activities and progress of the educated 
world, were long known among the nations blessed with a 
national culture, as a nation of slaves, often as a nation of 
robbers and murderers. To the bearers of Europe's civili- 
zation, the noble conceptions which nourished and inspired 
the Servians were unknown. Instead of favor the nation ac- 
quired disfavor, instead of sympathy, scorn To you, 

O noble woman, and to your powerful mind belongs the honor 

of having secured for our people protection and refuge 

You have heralded the worth of the Occident. What a 
sublime feeling for you has sprung up in the hearts of a nation 
which has been placed on the stage of humanity not through 
its own material might, but through your ability and effort. 
Receive thanks, then, from us to whom your noble father- 
land, Prussia, has so hospitably opened the doors of its 
educational institutions. Your worthy name shall be enrolled 
with respect and honor among the list of friends of that in- 
tellectual progress, which you are advancing so wisely." ™ 

Talvj accomplished in part what Herder in his Volkslieder 
wished might yet be accomplished for the national poetry of 
the less civilized older peoples. As yet this poetr)-- seemed 
veiled in darkness. Speaking of her work in this connection, 
Menzel said, "He has gathered together in two volumes the 

''^ From an unpublished clipping found among her papers. 

— 50 — 

most excellent love and epic songs of that nation. If he has 
not given them to us with their whole natural atmosphere, still 
he has made us acquainted with the very kernel of an entirely 
peculiar folklore."" (Menzel was one of those who thought 
'Talvj' was a man.) It was a surprise to the German people 
to be brought to realize that such a wealth and depth of feel- 
ing could exist in a nation which had always been looked upon 
as barbarian. Whatever Goethe had done previous to this was 
with isolated songs, and she, probably better than any one else, 
realized how impossible it was to arouse an interest and ap- 
preciation by means of isolated examples. The "Lamentation 
of Asan Aga," which he had translated some years before, had 
been received favorably, but it neither prepared the way for 
nor anticipated the unusual appreciation of Servian literature 
which followed the publication of Talvj 's book. Menzel cred- 
ited to 'Herr Talvj' a deep natural sympathy for this so-called 
barbarian people, which enabled him to give these songs the 
charms of Ossian and Homer. 

In these unspoiled sons of nature the Germans were brought 
face to face with an old sacred strength and purity of heart 
little dreamed of. Through all their ferocious wildness there 
runs an almost incredible trace of mildness and tender honor. 
Theirs is the naive expression of a feeling not yet restrained 
by consciousness of civilization, or by the form of a stilted 
and artificial language. The Servian and New Greek songs 
bear some similarities, in as much as both peoples were on ap- 
proximately the same plane of cultural development, and were 
for centuries neighbors and fellow-servants under the same 

A short history of the Servians, which successfully ful- 
fills its design in creating an interest in the songs themselves, 
constitutes an introduction to the first volume. A comparison 
of Talvj 's translation with a literal translation of one of the 
longer songs convinced both Goethe and Menzel that her ver- 
sions moved with a swing and smoothness quite in accord with 
the original. Both were free from even the restraint of rhyme. 
Critics have said that Talvj 's and Goethe's translations seem, 

''~ Literatur-Blatt, No. 77, Sept. 26, 1826. 

— 51 — 

almost, to have been the work of one person. There is a 
naturalness about the shorter poems of love, longing, fidelity, 
and grief which effectually excludes all sentimentality. The 
charm of truly artless spontaneity as attractive as the charm 
of childish naivete hovers around the. The first volume con- 
tains fifty-four poems of the lyrical variety, followed by ten 
longer poems, or 'Romanzen,' depicting life within the family 
circle and on the field of battle. A peculiar characteristic marks 
all these longer poems ; the mother and brother play a more 
important role, it seems, than the father. Blood relationship, 
again, as in all the earlier nations is a sacred tie. The vol- 
ume closes with two long poems, of which one is built about 
the heroic figure of Marko, while the other culminates in the 
battle of Amselfeld. Marko is comparable to the German 
Siegfried, the Greek Achilles, the Scandinavian Baldur, the 
Ossian Oscar, and like them all succumbs to the irresistible 
power of fate. 

After the appearance of the first volume in 1825, repeated 
complaints came that Talvj had not given to the public enough 
of the shorter, so-called female songs ; and in the second volume 
which appeared in 1826, she attempted to satisfy this demand 
by the inclusion of ninety-two lyrics. Besides these, other 
additions to the second volume include thirteen longer j>oems, 
twelve legends and epics, another long Marko epic, and five 
scenes from the last insurrection of the Servians. It was 
currently believed that Talvj was acquainted with many more 
songs, and a third volume, which never appeared, was long and 
confidently awaited by many of her readers ; but whether fear 
of offending the cultivated German ear with a presentation of 
nature in her natural garb as manifested in a primitive and 
natural people restrained her from further publications, I 
have not been able to ascertain. One of her critics suggested 
that as a possible reason. 

Upon her arrival in Berlin, she was received as a writer of 
recognized ability. Her work had already revived Savigny's in- 
terest in Slavic poetry. On every hand she was met with praise 
and thanks. All this meant much to Talvj, but with this pleas- 
ure came keen sorrow, inasmuch as there no longer existed 

— 52 — 

any occasion for a continuance of her correspondence with 
Goethe. She says in one of her latest letters to him, "And 
I am brought to realize with the deepest regret and sorrow how 
this step (final publication) cuts loose every outer relation with 
you whom I have honored with all the strength of my soul 
since my earliest youth." '^^ Her last letter to him bears her 
thanks for two beautiful medallions which Goethe, as we know 
from his Tagebuch of December 2, 1826, had sent her; medal- 
lions of the same kind which he shortly afterwards (1827) 
presented to Zelter and Griiner — a picture of the Grand Duke 
on one side and of Goethe and an eagle on the other. 

And thus ended a chapter in Talvj's literary career which 
in many respects has no counterpart in her later life. Actuated 
in part by a desire to please Goethe, in part by a force of mind 
which one of her critics found comparable to that of a German 
professor, she had placed in German literature a monument to 
herself and to the Servian nation. 

Chapter III. 

The American Indian — Translation of Pickering's Indian 

Languages — Bssay on the Original Inhabitants of 

North America. 

The Indian, always picturesque and interesting, has come 
to be considered the most romantic element in American his- 
tory and early American life. He himself has not produced a 
literature, but his language, his legends, and his songs have 
been a study for scholars of various nations. In fact, the In- 
dian had a great share in the development of the poetic inter- 
est in folk songs which reached such a height in Germany dur- 
ing the latter part of the eighteenth century, owing to the 
belief that the original poetry of primitive nations manifested 
the fundamental nature of man far more truly and power- 
fully than the poetry of cultivated nations. Moreover, the 
theory gained prominence that the Indians were the ten lost 
tribes, and in consequence there arose a deep interest in their 
origin, stimulating the study of their songs and legends. 

'^^ Goethe JaJtrbuch, ix, p. 58. 

— 53 — 

The theory of the Hebraic origin of the savage races, how- 
ever, useful as it was in a Hterary, philological, and ethno- 
logical interest in them, was, of course, without any scien- 
tific value. Many alternative and conflicting hypotheses 
concerning the various Indian dialects were advanced and in 
consequence there arose a radical disagreement as to the Indian 
language. To some it was harsh and altogether disagreeable ; 
to others it was mellow, soft and sonorous. The character of 
the wilderness tribes, too, became a matter of great dispute. 
To some they were painted savages, cruel, revengeful, and ab- 
solutely devoid of a single genuinely human feeling; to others 
they were loyal, true, kind, and sincere. A remarkable fact, 
noticeable in a comparative reading of French, English, and 
German writers is that, generally speaking, the German at- 
titude was more humane and lenient than that of the other na- 
tions. Indeed Duponceau, one of the greatest scholars of the 
Indian, sums up the attitude of nations other than German 
very well in the words, "But who cares for the poor American 
Indians? They are savages and barbarians and live in the 
woods ; must not their languages be savage and barbarian like 
them?" '^ But of the Teutonic writers he remarks: "I must 
take this opportunity to express my astonishment at the great 
knowledge which the literati of Germany appear to possess of 
America and of the customs, manners, and languages of its 
original inhabitants. Strange that we should have to go to 
German universities to become acquainted with our own coun- 
try." Before discussing Talvj's peculiar contributions to the 
subject it may be well to consider what, in general, had been 
done by the writers of various nations, and in particular by the 

The endeavors of John Eliot, Roger Williams, Cadwallader 
Golden, Samuel Sagard, and Bryan Edwards to give the Indian 
language and legends stability and permanence by reducing 
them to writing must be acknowledged as a substantial effort 
toward a general dissemination of knowledge concerning such 
topics. Neither can we overlook the work of Baron de La 
Hontan, Jonathan Carver, Father Charlevoix, Colonel John 

■^9 Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. xii, p 367. 

— 54 — 

Gibson, Dr. Barton, EHas Boudinot and others. However, 
the real awakening of an interest in this huge task of pre- 
serving the fast disappearing tongues and folk-stories of the 
savages came through the Germans; and especially the Ger- 
man missionaries, whose great intimacy with the Indians, 
gained by the close contact of long years of residence among 
them, inspired a sympathy and understanding which set it- 
self gladly to the labor of recording their language. 

As early as 1688 we find in a letter of Pastorius, who studied 
and worked at the University of Altdorf before coming tO' 
America, an account of the Indians of Pennsylvania as he knew 
them. He said in part: "The Indians, or as I prefer to call 
them, the forest inhabitants of Pennsylvania, are large and for 

the most part very muscular Of an open mind, the 

speech is moderate and brief, but of decided worth. They can 
neither read nor write. Notwithstanding, they are inventive, 
sly, discreet, earnest, fearless, untiring, and alert, but always 
exact and honest in business transactions." *° In the second 
letter is a list of some of the more common expressions and 
terms of Indian speech, with their German equivalents. Thus 
early the Germans made an attempt to become better acquainted 
with the Indians by means of a knowledge of their language. 
The most significant work, with respect to their language 
and culture, however, was done about a century later by Zeis- 
berger and, — more especially — by Heckewelder ; and it was 
this which afforded Talvj much of her source material. It is 
true that Alexander von Humboldt and Dr. N. H. Julius also 
rendered her assistance by means of some original folk-lore 
which they had collected; but of all the sources mentioned by 
her, Heckenwelder seems to have been the most significant. 
The great Moravian missionary first became an evangelist 
to the Indians in 1762, as an assistant to Christian Friedrich 
Post. This venture was not successful, however, and it was 
not until 1771 that he entered upon his actual career as an 
evangelist to them. In this year he began his labors as the 
assistant of the already well-known David Zeisberger, work- 
s'* Goebel, "Zwei unbekannte Briefe von Pastorius," German Amer- 
ican Annals, August, 1904. 

— 55 — 

ing among the Moravian Indians, first in Pennsylvania and 
then in Ohio. Almost the entire period of his life from this 
time forward was filled with dealings with and for the Indians. 
Nor was his pen idle, active as he was as a teacher and 
proselyte. His book on the History, Manners, and Cus- 
toms of the Indian Nations zvJw once Inhabited Pennsylvania 
and the Neighboring States, appearing in 1819, caused a 
veritable uproar in the critical world for his attitude differed 
almost diametrically from that which the majority of writers 
before him had taken. Many of the judgments passed upon 
his volume were favorable; many, also, were scathingly con- 

A few of the more prominent phases of Indian life and cus- 
toms which Heckewelder brought out may be interesting as 
a background for Talvj's study; for many of her conclusions, 
although arrived at from an altogether different method of 
treatment, were similar. According to Heckewelder, the com- 
plaints which the Indians made against European ingratitude 
and injustice were long and dismal. They loved to repeat them 
and always did it with the eloquence of nature, aided by an 
energetic and comprehensive language whose force our polished 
idioms could seldom imitate. "Often", he said, "I have listened 
to these descriptions of their hard sufferings until I felt 
ashamed of being a white man." *^ He heard one Indian re- 
mark, "I admit that there are good white men, but they bear 
no proportion to the bad ; the bad must be the strongest, for 
they rule. The white men are not like the Indians, who are 

only enemies while at war and are friends in peace They 

are not to be trusted." ^- This plaintive indignation Hecke- 
welder found the more appealing from the fact that when the 
Indians first saw the white men, they considered them superior 
beings sent by the Great Spirit, and expected to be made hap- 
pier by their coming. "And yet, for all their abuses," he quotes 
these injured people, "the white men would always be telling 
us of their great Book which God had given to them ; they 
would persuade us that every man was good who believed in 

*^ Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. xii, p. 76. 
^^ Ibidem, p. 80 

— 56 — 

what the book said, and every man was bad who did not be- 
Heve in it. They told us a great many things which they said 
were written in the good Book, and wanted us to beheve it 
all. We would probably have done so, if we had seen them 
practice what they pretended to believe and act according to 

the good words which they told us They killed those 

who believed in their book as well as those who did not."^^ 

Heckewelder did not deny the horrors and cruelty of the 
treatment which the Indians accorded their prisoners of war, 
but he denied that torture and death were as frequent as many 
of the writers had maintained.^* Prisoners were generally 
adopted by the families of their conquerors in place of lost 
or deceased relatives or friends. Burning and torturing 
scarcely ever took place except when a nation had suffered 
great losses in war, or when wilful and deliberate murders of 
innocent women and children had occurred. The respect which 
the simple savages had for old age was remarkable. In a coun- 
cil no young man would presume to offer, unsolicited, one 
word of advice in the presence of his elders. This very respect, 
however, so laudable in itself, was sometimes carried to the 
extreme, aand worked to the detriment of the Indians. 

In their individual social relations, moreover, Heckewelder 
pointed out that the aborigines were not quarrelsome, and were 
always on their guard so as not to offend each other. When 
one supposed himself hurt or aggrieved by a word which had 
inadvertently fallen from the mouth of another, he would say 
to him, "Friend, you have caused me to become jealous of you." 
When the other explained and said he had no evil intentions 
all hard feeling ceased. They did not fight with each other, 
for they said fighting was only for dogs and beasts. The ver- 
dict of Boudinot is in full accord with this opinion. "To 
whom," says Boudinot, "should be attributed the evil pas- 
sions, cruel practices, and vicious habits to which they are now 
changed, but to those who first set the example, laid the founda- 
tion, and then furnished the continual means for propagating 
and supporting the evil ?" ^^ 

83 Ibidem, p. 188. 

8* See Lawson's Journal, p. 197. 

^^ Memoirs, vol. xii, p. 331. 

— 57 — 

To the Indians the Almighty Creator was always present 
as an almost visible reality. With reverence they felt and 
acknowledged his supreme power. Much like the Greeks and 
Romans, they believed that lesser gods had charge over the 
elements. Combined with this worship was an ancestor-worship, 
which inspired each of them with a hope to rise to fame and 
glory, — a hope, however, which they could expect to realize 
only through submission and obedience. In illustration of this 
religion and of the superstitious and poetic nature of the In- 
dians, Heckewelder's book contains, besides the accounts of 
savage life and customs, a great number of native legends 
and bits of supernatural lore. 

In a criticism of Heckewelder's work the North American 
Review presented the following opinion, one characteristic of 
the prevalent attitude of the English and the Americans : "The 
range of thought of our Indian neighbors is extremely limited. 
Of abstract ideas they are almost wholly destitute. They have 
no sciences, and their religious notions are confused and 
circumscribed. They have but little propert}^, less law, and 
no public offences. They soon forget the past, improvidently 
disregard the future, and waste their thoughts, when they do 
think upon the present. The character of all original languages 
must depend, more or less, upon the wants, means, and oc- 
cupations, mental and physical, of the people who speak them, 
and we ought not to expect to find the complicated refinement 
of polished tongues, among those of our Indians." ^^ There 
were, however, those already — a pitiful minority — who took 
issue with this sentiment. Duponceau, for example, said, 
"Alas! if the beauties of the Lenni Lenape language were 
found in the ancient Coptic or in some ante-diluvian Babylonish 
dialect, how would the learned of Europe be at work to display 
them in a variety of shapes and raise a thousand fanciful 
theories on that foundation ! What superior wisdom, talents 
and knowledge would they not ascribe to the nations whose 
idioms were formed with so much skill and method !"*^ 

This, then, was the state of critical opinion in America in 

^^ North American Review, 1826, p. 79. 
^^ Memoirs, vol. xii, p. 367. 

— 58 — 

regard to the Indians and their language, when Talvj became 
interested in the various dialects, and in aboriginal culture as 
manifested in their folk-lore. Her appearance served, in a 
measure, as a response to the appeal of B. H. Coates made in 
closing an address upon the "origin of the Indian" before the 
Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1834. "The occasion 
is tempting", he said, "to urge the cause of the unhappy 
aboriginals and must not be neglected. What are the in- 
quiries of abstract research to the claims of living and suffering 
humanity? It is to woman that we can ever appeal for all 
that is generous in self-devotion and gentle and lovely in per- 
formance. You possess the power to guide and control public 
opinion. You mould the statesman and the warrior, and con- 
vert their cold and cruel calculations into plans of benevolence 
and humanity. Nothing but woman can bid the demon of 
avarice to pause in his career. It is to woman, therefore, that 
I address the cause of the unfortunate beings who have been 
the subject of this discourse, a race suffering from every ill 
that can be inflicted by the combined agency of the thirst for 
land and the thirst for gold. They are still the same people 
who were so long the faithful allies of Penn ; the men who 
succored our ancestors and enabled them to form a state." ^^ 

The first work of Talvj in this nev*^ field was a translation 
into German of John Pickering's Indian Languages of North 
America, completed in 1834.^® Her object in beginning this 
task was to make Pickering's manual more accessible to Ger- 
mans than it would have been in its English form. She 
summed up the extent to which studies in the Indian tongues 
had progressed. In Bethlehem, the central point of the Her- 
renhuters, she said, there was a complete if small library of 
essays, dictionaries, etc. of various Indian dialects, written by 
missionaries of the brotherhood and put there to inform the 
younger members. Unfortunately the work of both Germans 

^^ Memoirs, vol. iii, part ii. 

89 Pickering wrote this essay for Francis Lieber's Encyclopaedia 
Americana, an encyclopedia based on the Brockhaus Conversations-Lexi- 
kon. Duponceau was the great influence upon Pickering, while Du- 
ponceau in turn was influenced by Humboldt. 

— 59 — 

and Americans up to this time had fallen into obscurity. A 
significant step forward had been made when the American 
Philosophical Society of Sciences in Philadelphia turned their 
attention to this work in 1816. Massachusetts . and Rhode 
Island followed in 1819. Many writers on the question had 
not seen anything- worthy of study in the Indian language, but 
like Herder aand Wilhelm von Humboldt before her, she felt 
that in a knowledge of the connection of languages lay the 
key to the world's history. 

The great difficulty, she continued, in learning the Indian 
language lay in the lack of harmony in the various orthog- 
raphies used by the grammarians. Men of various nations rep- 
resented sounds by symbols equivalent only in their respective 
languages ; so that in order to form a conception of the pronun- 
ciation one had to refer constantly to the native language of 
the men who studied and wrote this literature. Herder had 
recognized another reason for difficulty, a difficulty which was 
found in a great many other primitive languages ; the fact 
that the more life was inherent in a language, the less one 
thought of restraining it in letters; the more originally it ex- 
pressed the unassorted sounds of nature, the less it was sus- 
ceptible of reduction to written form. And it was almost be- 
yond the power of a foreigner to form the sounds, let alone 
represent them by letters.^*^ Rasles, who spent ten years among 
the Indians of North America, complained of the fact that, 
even with the greatest care and attention, he was often able to 
get only half a word. Chaumont, who spent fifty years among 
the Hurons, complained of their inexpressible accent. Pickering 
chose the pronunciation of the German letters as the simplest 
and most useful inasmuch as they were not radically different 
from the Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Danish, and, as re- 
gards most vowels, agreed with the French. The English 
seemed built upon caprice more than principle, and so made a 
mass of superfluous letters necessary. 

Pickering said that the original inhabitants of this land pos- 
sessed a language different in its idioms from all the languages 
of the known world. Duponceau, who had made a study of all 

9° Herder, S'dmtliche Wcrkc (Suphan), vol. v. 

— 60 — 

the languages of America from Greenland to Cape Horn, had 
proved that the manifold forms of human speech which existed 
in the Eastern Hemisphere did not exist in the Western. One 
and the same system seemed to run through all of the Indian 
languages; however, the variations of the objects made it 
difficult for a knowledge of one to serve as an open gate to all. 
Duponceau used the term polysynthetic in speaking of the In- 
dian languages. 

A prejudice of long standing against the dialects of wild 
peoples blinded many of the students of language to the fact, 
which seemed established in Pickering's mind, that the native 
Americans had a language second to none in richness of 
idioms. Compare this view with the following of Lawson's, — 
"Their languages or tongues are so deficient that you cannot 
suppose that the Indian ever could express themselves in such 
a flight of stile as authors would have you believe. They are 
so far from it, that they are but just able to make one another 
understand what they talk about." ^^ In trying to explain such 
a narrow and uninformed viewpoint, Pickering thought it might 
be due to a general failure to appreciate the fact that philosophy 
and science had little to do in the formation of a language. 
This explanation seems plausible, and indeed logical, in view 
of such statements as that made by one illiberal and superficial 
student of language, that the language of the Indians pos- 
sessed no real grammatical forms because it was not inflected 
like the Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. Consequently, judging 
from the standpoint of its usefulness in assisting in the de- 
velopment of abstract ideas, he gave it a low rank among 
languages. But the falsity of this criticism is apparent from a 
cursory examination of the inflectional power of various In- 
dian parts of speech. Mattatsch gluppiweque, as Talvj tells 
us, is equivalent to the Latin "nisi veneris" — . 

Matta negates an adverb. 

tsch is the sign of futurity with which an adverb is inflected. 

gluppiweque is the second person, plural, present subjunc- 
tive of the verb.^^ 

®^ Lawson, An account of the Indian of North Carolina, 1709. 
*- Pickering — Indianische Sprachen Amerikas — Talvj, p. 6. 

— 61 — 

Certainly these forms show a higher degree of inflection 
than the English, French, or German, It was with reason that 
Duponceau's study led him to conclude that, on the whole, 
the native American's language was rich in words and gram- 
matical forms. 

In the construction of their rules of syntax there seemed 
to exist among the savage dialects the greatest order, method, 
and regularity. Most of the so-called students of the Indian 
languages failed to go deep enough into their essential nature 
to give a fair decision. Heckewelder, the friend of Dupon- 
ceau, was the first to call the attention of the public to this. At 
the time he was looked upon by critics as a benevolent ignora- 
mus, and almost as a misrepresenter of a language he had 
studied for forty years, in the same way that Duponceau was 
considered an enthusiast whose feelings had run away with 
his judgment. Nevertheless, the statements of these two men 
are easily reinforced by conclusions drawn over a century be- 
fore. The Indian apostle Eliot in 1666 spoke of the fact that 
the aborigines possessed the faculty of combining syllables to 
express various shades of meaning. Because of this system of 
polysynthesis, as Duponceau called it, logically their vocabu- 
lary would be boundless.^^ Roger Williams testified to the fact 
that the Indian language was not impoverished. In 1648, in 
describing a little English-Indian dictionary he was publishing, 
he said: "The English for every Indian word or sentence is 
in a straight line directly across from the Indian. At times 
there are two words for the same thing — for their language 
is extraordinarily rich, and they often have five and six words 
for one and the same thing." ^* 

To an exact translation of this little book by Pickering, 
Talvj added a number of original notes, cotaining many in- 
teresting anecdotes and facts, besides explanations of the text 
itself. In these notes she gathered together the various philo- 

^^ Indianische Sprachen Amerikas, p. 11. 

^*Zeisberger wrote a complete dictionary of the Iroquois language 
in three quarto volumes. The first from A to H is unfortunately lost, 
but the remainder, which is preserved, contains over eight hundred 
pages. This would show that the Indian languages are not so poor as 
is generally imagined. 

— 62 — 

logical explanations of all the greatest students of the Indian 
language, — Duponceau, Heckewelder, Zeisberger, Vater, Louis 
Cass, Charlevoix, and Roger Williams. The fifth note is es- 
pecially interesting as illustrating the nature of Talvj's in- 
vestigations. The Cherokees, at the time of her early res- 
idence in America, were becoming quite civilized, and in the 
process were offering an interesting field for a study of 
cultural development, especially in the origin and growth of a 
written language. She translated for her German readers a 
letter from Elias Boudinot, himself a Cherokee on his father's 
side, to W. Woodbridge, the editor of Annals of Education. 
In this letter the development of the alphabet was described, an 
alphabet whose simplicity and directness were such, as she 
said, that a child could learn to speak and read it within a few 
days. Its content is of unusual interest, while as a contribution 
to the history of languages it is very valuable. 

Talvj's second work on the Indians dealt with their folk- 
lore and is contained in her book entitled Charakteristik der 
VolksUeder, a discussion of which is reserv^ed until the chapter 
on "Popular Poetry." Her research work on this phase of In- 
dian culture did not take the shape of a personal investigation 
among the Indians themselves, but rather that of a very 
thorough examination of all the available reports of the ex- 
plorers, colonists, and missionaries of various nations. Among 
the sources thus probed were Heckewelder, Alexander von 
Humboldt, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Kranz, Julius, Martius, 
Carver, Williams, Dunne, and Charlevoix. Among other con- 
siderations, she confronted the same question which had con- 
fronted practically all other students of the private life of the 
red-men; why did they produce practically no poetry? Their 
life and customs possessed poetic elements, their language was, 
in a measure, well adapted to poetic expression, and their sur- 
roundings were romantic to a degree always picturesque and 
often sublime. Her conclusions with regard to this subject 
were peculiarly original. It must be admitted, she said, that of 
all uncivilized peoples the American Indians in their original 
condition stand out the most distinctively poetic. The African 
races are either rough barbarians, or harmless children unable 

— 63 — 

to approach the boundaries of an intellectual nonage. The 
uncivilized peoples of Asia, on the other hand, are enslaved by 
despotism; while the moutain dwellers and Nomads who 
alone are free bear a certain resemblance to the warlike In- 
dians, — a resemblance, to be sure, modified by various local 
conditions. The nationality of the Indians seems to harmonize 
with their surroundings more than in the case of other un- 
civilized peoples. Their misdeeds appear rather the natural 
outgrowth of an immaturity of spiritual development than 
evidence of innate wickedness. Their religion is the religion 
of nature, wild, free, devoutly poetic — for they are pantheists, 
and invest God with the forms of natural surroundings in 
which they live. 

That the mental life of the aborigines was undeveloped, 
she brought out clearly by the following analysis: The 
Indians classified all objects as animate and inanimate. 
Every animal had to them a soul and a claim to immortality. 
Yet while nature was the object of their reverence, still their 
belief in her powers was not materialism. Many of their 
superstitious sayings, handed down secretly from father to 
son, were without doubt as childish and absurd as the sayings 
of other uncivilized peoples, but many among them had also a 
wonderful depth and meaning. The Indians viewed the living 
world as a great body whose members were all subject to the 
same laws of birth and growth, endurance and release. The 
earth was to them a common mother, who carried within her 
the seed of all life, and from whom everything that existed 
received its first form. Thus was it decreed by the great and 
good spirit, the father of men, of animals, and of plants. The 
regions below the earth were still peopled with many lower 
races. The Delaware Indians would not eat a rabbit or a mole, 
for some soul might be contained therein, retarded in its de- 
velopment ; and they would have no way of telling whether or 
not it was related to them. Their ancestors called the rattle- 
snake grandfather, and neither could be induced by any price 
to kill it themselves nor would they allow white men to slay it. 
This idea of their relationship to animals was shown in their 
tribe names, Wolf, Bear, Tortoise, Eagle. The superstitious 

— 64 — 

fear of the owl among some of the tribes, and the behef in the 
significance of the song and flight of certain birds came, no 
doubt, from the same source. Similar bonds connected them 
with the whole living world. Among many tribes even the 
stars were considered members of a family. 

One of the features among the customs of the tribes which 
struck Talvj as being highly poetic was their tendency to use 
specific instead of general names. We will agree with her, I 
think, that poetry has been lost when descriptions become 
general and vague ; the more specific and individual the terms 
of expression, the more graphic aand clear the picture. With 
such a treasure of poetic material lying within the inmost 
nature of the Indians, she felt that strong counter-elements 
must have been at work to prevent the production of poetry 
and to make what they had produced in the way of songs and 
short stories so meager and uninteresting. The Indians to her 
were an example of a poetic temperament without poetic ex- 
pression. Talvj cited with some exceptions in opinion the state- 
ment given by Abbe Clavigero of the poetry of the old Mexican 
Indians — a statement differing in many respects from the one 
ordinarily presented. "The language of the Aztecs", he said, 
"was bright, pure, and pleasing, full of pictures and re- 
current images of the most attractive objects in nature, such 
as flowers, trees, and rivers." But the flattering hues of the 
Abbe's picture were dimmed by his failure to offer proof. Abbe 
Molina, again, described the poetry of the Araucana Indians in 
similarly glowing terms, but such descriptions, Talvj thought, 
were based on what the poetry of these tribes theoretically 
should have been, and not what it really was. In reality, Talvj 
felt that they were not poetic largely because they were a people 
in whom the passions were stronger than the imagination. In- 
tense passions were never productive of poetry and, when filled 
with these passions, the Indians were fairly robbed of their 
human nature, and took on the aspect of a fiend. As to their 
skill in the use of metaphors, it was rather the outgrowth of 
their method of living than an outgrowth of the imagination. 
Their metaphors were taken immediately out of nature, in 
which they had more confidence than in the realm of the ab- 

— 65 — 

stract, the realm from which so many educated people obtain 
their metaphorical expressions. The innumerable traditions of 
the Indians did not show many traces of imagination. 

The love for solitude which the Indians possessed seemed 
to spring from their love of independence and not from an 
inclination to cultivate the imagination. Only when they had 
cast off all bonds of companionship did they consider them- 
selves absolutely free. Wilhelm von Humboldt told of a tribe 
in South America which possessed this trait to such an ex- 
tent that even the children at times left their parents for four 
or five days, and wandered about in the forests, sustaining 
themselves by herbs and roots of trees. Thus deeply in- 
grained in their souls was the love of independence. 

The Indians, again, continues Talvj, were by nature re- 
served and not at all prone to disclose their emotions, a fact 
which militated against the production of lyric poetry. Among 
themselves the redmen were not gloomy, secretive people, 
as they appeared to the white men. Before others they seemed 
to be completely absorbed in themselves and given up to melan- 
choly. All w^ho had had an opportunity of observing them 
when among their own people, and when not disturbed by 
suspicious fears, described them as extraordinarily talkative 
and cheerful, and full of a certain dry satirical wit. But Talvj 
doubts whether their talk was ever of a very sensible nature. 

Still another element which, in Talvj 's opinion, worked 
against the production of poetry, was the absence of the pas- 
sion of love among the Indians ; an absence as to which, how- 
ever, she admits there was still some disagreement among 
writers. Generally speaking, the Indians undoubtedly were not 
demonstrative. A number of travelers agreed on the posses- 
sion by the savages of a certain tender regard and affection 
for the children, but the general attitude toward the wife was 
one of indifference. Their friendships were based not so 
much on the principles of affection as on the principles of 
honor and duty. Talvj would not have us think that the In- 
dians were incapable of the tenderer emotions, but they were 
not dominated by them. Perhaps this explains an apparent 
absence of jealousy among them. Two of the love songs which 

— 66 — 

she succeeded in obtaining through the kindness of Dr. JuHus 
will suffice to show that the depth of feeling expressed is 
not great. 


Zwei Tage ist's nun, zwei Tage, 
Dass letzt ich Nahrung genommen, 
Zwei Tage nun, zwei Tage ! 

Fiir dich, fiir dich, mein Lieb 

Fiir dich, ist's, dass ich traure, i 

Fiir dich, fiir dich, mein Lieb. 

Die Fluth ist tief und breit, 
Auf der mein Lieb gesegelt, 
Die Fluth ist tief und breit! 

Fiir dich ist's, dass ich traure, 
Fiir dich, fiir dich, mein Lieb ! 
Fiir dich ist's, dass ich traure !.^^ 

IL ■ 

Wahrhaftig, ihn lieb ich allein, 
Dess Herz ist wie der siisse Saft, 
Der siisse Saft des Ahornsbaumes ! 
Wahrhaftig, ihn lieb ich allein ! ^6 

Ihn lieb ich, ihn lieb ich, dessen Herz 
Verwandt ist dem Laube, dem Espenlaub, 
Dem Blatt das immer lebt und bebt, 
Wahrhaftig, ihn lieb ich allein ! ^^ 

The musical element, we are told by Talvj, was lacking 
almost entirely in their songs ; and this was granted even by the 
most enthusiastic advocates of the Indian language. Alexander 
von Humboldt, in speaking of the Carabeans, said that they 
spoke with great fluency, in a loud voice, and with a somewhat 
accented expression. This would give a slight poetical nature 
to their conversation. But their life was such, he continued, 
that their conversation did not seem to grow out of an over- 
powering emotion. Ambition was their motive force, not the 

5^ Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 123. 
^^ Ibidem, p. 123. 

— 67 — 

emotions. These, then, were some of the reasons set forth by 
Talvj as operating in restraint of poetic productions among 
the Indians. 

There was, however, one form of poetic expression current 
among them besides their conversation, and that was their 
dancing. In marked contradistinction to that of other nations, 
as Talvj was especially qualified to judge from her extensive 
acquaintance with the folk-lore of many other peoples, the 
Indian dance was not merely a favorite pastime, but was a 
language expressive of the most intimate feelings. The dance 
was to the Indians what song was to other nations. The per- 
fect abandon of their war-dance; the reverential tread of the 
sacrifice-dance; the slow movement of the peace-dance, gave 
perfect vent to their varying emotions. As accompaniment they 
sang single ejaculatory words, which the expressive movements 
of the dance rendered entirely intelligible. Talvj 's apprecia- 
tion of the poetry of the Indian dances was certainly an evi- 
dence of her German temperament, — a temperament which saw 
poetry in all harmony. To most students of the Indians their 
dances were grewsome and savage, an appeal to the lowest 
passions, and an expression of absolute barbarism. Charlevoix, 
who wrote a book about the Iroquois Indians, gave the general 
characteristics of their songs as wildness and pain. Their 
tones, he said, were monotonous and rigid. Yet the terror as- 
cribed to the Indian war-songs must have lain in the method of 
singing them, for the words themselves do not strike terror to 
the reader. The following war-song of the Iroquois tribes will 
illustrate the mild character of the words. 

Nun geh' ich, nun geh' ich zum freud'gen Geschafte 
'• O grosser Geist, erbarme dich mein, 

Im freud'gen Geschafte hab' Erbarmen mit mir! 

Auf meinem Wege gieb gutes Gluck, 
Und habe Erbarmen, o grosser Geist, 
Mit meinem freud'gen Geschafte ! ^^ 

In an interesting way Talvj describes the folk-lore of the 
Greenlanders and Eskimaux, who, although of apparently dif- 

97 Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 119. 

— 68 — 

ferent origin, spoke a language of almost the same construction 
and character as that of the Indians. Their songs, like those 
of the Indians, had neither rhyme nor meter ; they consisted of 
short irregular sentences, which were recited with a sort of 
rhythmic intonation. The funeral dirges of the Greenlanders 
were very similar to those of the Indians, especially the Sioux ; 
perhaps not so much in content as in the manner of singing. 
She saw a truly poetic emotion evidenced as the mourners and 
friends, in tones of woe and sorrow, chanted the songs of be- 
reavement, interrupted, as it were, after each sentence by a 
loud cry of grief from all present. It is upon the authority of 
Carver, whose travels among the Indians were very extensive, 
that Talvj traces the similarity between these northern dirges 
and those of the Sioux of the west. As to similarity of content 
the reader may judge for himself from a few verses of one of 
each nation's funeral dirges. Through Kranz, the famous 
Greenland traveler, Talvj was able to get a so-called Gron- 
landische Leichenklage. 

Wehe mir! dass ich deinen Sitz ansehen soil, der nun leer ist! Deine 
Mutter bemiihet sich vergebens, dir die Kleider zu trocknen ! 

Siehe meine Freude ist ins Finstere gegangen und in den Berg 
verkrochen ! 

Ehedem ging ich des Abends aus und freute mich ! ich strengte meine 
Augen an und wartete auf dein Kommen ! ^^ 

Compare with this the Indian Leichenklage of a mother at the 
grave of her little child. 

O hatt'st du gelebt, mein Sohn, gelebt. 
Bald hatte und wie! deine junge Hand 
Den machtigen Bogen spannen gelemt! 

Verderben, mein Sohn, o hatt'st du gelebt, 
Verderben hatten bald deine Pfeil' 
Den Feinden uns'res Stammes gebracht. 

Du hattest getrunken ihr Blut, ihr Blut, 

Und hattest verzehret ihr Fleisch, ihr Fleisch, 

Und Sklaven in Menge hatt'st du gemacht ! ®^ u. s. w. 

99 Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 120. 
^^ Charaktcristik der Volkslieder, p. 118. 

— 69 — 

The criticism made by many travelers of the absolute 
spiritual poverty of the Indians was very distasteful to Talvj. 
She felt that such a judgment was neither fair nor just, for 
most of the Indian tribes with which civilized people had come 
in contact had been warlike peoples, whose souls were deadened 
to all poetic feeling by their unequal struggle for existence 
against the white man. As she suggests, we have not judged 
the Indians under original or even normal conditions. Such 
a study was quite unusual. Among the innumerable accounts 
of the Indians prior to her time and even after her time, Indian 
culture as such was not considered. From the originality of 
her work in this hitherto unexplored field, I think, I may justly 
say that Talvj played an important part in creating an interest 
in America's original inhabitants among the Americans them- 

It seems logical to infer that Longfellow received inspira- 
tion from her for his famous poem Hiawatha. This poetic in- 
terpretation of the Indians and their surroundings made by 
Talvj is the distinctive characteristic of Longfellow's poem. 
If one follows a reading of Talvj 's essay with a reading of 
Hiawatha, he is struck at once by the feeling of an indefinable 
similarity. It cannot be attributed to any other cause than a 
similarity of poetic interpretation. Both put into their in- 
terpretation the romance of human existence and raise the 
Indians out of the state of animal savagery so commonly at- 
tributed to them. 

A careful study of Longfellow's letters and journals, as 
published by Samuel Longfellow, does not reveal any direct 
mention of Talvj. In a letter written by Dr. N. W. Julius to 
Longfellow on May 28, 1838, the former says, "This day I had 
a long interesting letter from Mrs. Robinson [Talvj] who will 
pass some time in Dresden." This indicates that Longfellow 
knew Mrs Robinson, at least in a literary way.^"" Another 

^0'' The following quotation from the review of her Literature of 
the Slavic Nations found in volume 37 of Graham's Magazine seems 
to indicate a literary acquaintanceship also : "Two or three poems 
relating to the desolate conditions of motherless orphans are introduced 
by a reference to a Danish ballad, which we trust that Longfellow will 
search after and translate. 

— 70 — 

indication which points toward his acquaintance with her was 
their mutual friendship with the family of Karl Follen. Long- 
fellow knew Duponceau and Pickering also, as is indicated 
in a letter to his father dated October 25, 1840. The reference 
is in regard to a French article which the poet had written for 
the North American Review the preceding year. He says, "Mr. 
Duponceau of Philadelphia has read it; and wrote to Mr. 
Pickering to say that he liked it, and that I had taken the true 
ground." Besides these mutual literary friends Longfellow's 
enthusiasm for the German language and German romanticism 
suggests another bond of acquaintance between him and Talvj. 
On June 22, 1854, he writes in his Journal, "I have at 
length hit upon a plan for a poem on the American Indian. It 
is to weave their beautiful traditions into a whole." And on 
September 19 he writes, ''Working away with Tanner, Hecke- 
welder, and sundry books about the Indian." HiawatJm ap- 
peared in 1855; Talvj's essay on Indian folk-lore in 1840. 
The precedence of her work is significant to tne mference 
which I have drawn. 

Chapter IV. 
Studies in Popular Poetry. 

"Popular poetry is not the heritage of a few blessed in- 
dividuals ; by it is meant that general poetic productivity which 
pervades the mass of men as it pervades nature. Among the 
nations of Europe it is a dying plant ; here and there a lonely 
relic is discovered among the rocks, preserved by the invigorat- 
ing powers of the mountain air. But for the most part civiliza- 
tion has ruthlessly swept it from its path, and in the future we 
may expect to find merely dried specimens, preserved between 
two sheets of paper and securely guarded in a cabinet." This 
was Talvj's conception of popular poetry as she expressed it 
in the introduction to her study of "Slavic Popular Poetry" in 
the North American Review for 1846.^°^ 

101 This idea is refuted by Professor Adolph Hauffen (Prag) in 
the Zeitschrift des Vereins fiir Volkskunde, vol iv, (1894) p. 5 ff. "To- 
day we can speak of a dying out of popular poetry only in those dis- 
tricts and among those people where literary German poetry prevails. 

— 71 — 

Before we consider the service she rendered to the science 
of comparative Hterature and to the cause of human culture 
by this remarkable study, a brief review of the historical growth 
of interest in popular poetry may be in place. When old Ger- 
man folk-lore was at its height, there seemed to be no definite 
and sharp distinction between artistic and folk poetry, as there 
was no marked difference in the education of the various 
classes of people. The songs of the people were sung in city 
and village alike by all classes, carried from one place to an- 
other by wandering minstrels, or again printed on leaflets and 
distributed at the fairs or even on the streets. Such ballads 
or lyrics were named variously, according to the theme, "street 
songs", "peasant songs", "love songs", "shepherd songs", etc., 
but the idea of calling them popular or folk songs seems never 
to have occurred to anyone. Soon, however, with the intor- 
duction of Humanism and classical learning the nation be- 
came divided into two distinct classes, the one composed of 
those possessing a classical education, the other of those who 
did not. In the seventeenth century the breach became es- 
pecially pronounced. The old popular songs were ignored by 
the learned scholars and everything that belonged to the un- 
learned masses fell into disfavor. From this time on un- 
til the time of Herder "Volk" stood for rabble.^^^^ ^he ver- 
nacular and the classical languages were strictly differentiated, 
and because of the supposed vulgarity of expression of the 
people the former was driven out of literature. The deadening 
theory of poetry as something purely formal, artistic, conven- 
tional, and didactic — a prerogative of the educated — grew 

From a literary-historical standpoint the erasure of this 
division line marks the beginning of the great folk song move- 
ment. At the head of the movement stood Michel Montaigne 
with his study of Brazilian songs, from which he concluded 

102 To Herder "Volk" meant the eternal source of all that was new 
and original. Today, largely through the influence of the French Revo- 
lution, the term has the added attribute of political. We are indebted to 
Herder for the word "Volkslied", a word which practically defies Eng- 
lish translation. Cf. also Hildebrand, "Materialien zur Geschichte des 
deutschen Volkslieds," Zcitschrift fiir den deutschen Unterricht, vol. v. 

— 72 — 

that popular and purely natural poetry has a naive grace 
which compares favorably with the beauty of artificial poetry. 
An intense interest in some of the songs of the original in- 
habitants of America sprang up in Germany, the same song 
often appearing under various names. As remarked elsewhere, 
it was considered a great discovery when it was found that 
even the Indians had their poets. In England the impulse to 
recognize popular poetry came through Addison, who was the 
first to call attention to the old ballads; it was given further 
strength by the appearance of Ossian; and finally, in 1765, 
found its full expression in Percy's Reliques of Ancient Eng- 
lish Poetry. An acquaintance with the existence and merits of 
popular poetry, and a desire to collect it, were thus born in 
many lands at once ; but the nurturing into full growth and 
fruitful significance of this appreciation became the task of 

When the Reliques came into Germany, Lessing had already 
prepared the way by his words, "Poets are born under every 
sky, and poetic expression is not the property solely of culti- 
vated peoples." ^^^ Opitz, Haller, Lessing, Hagedorn had each 
in turn called attention to the store of popular songs. The 
theory of its study, however, had not yet been developed fully 
enough to afford popular poetry complete recognition ; the 
requisite atmosphere was still in the process of creation. During 
the eighteenth century, indeed, a shortlived distinction between 
natural and popular poetry was frequently advanced, especial- 
ly by Klopstock and those of his school who scorned the "un- 
poetic rabble," but reverenced the "song of soulful nature." 
Into this pregnant atmosphere Percy's Reliques came. The 
effect was immediate and far-reaching. Ballad poetry was 
reborn, with Herder as its father ; and his epoch-making work, 
Volkslieder, — for which, it is true, he had laid a foundation 
as early as 1770 and 1771 by his studies of Shakespeare, Os- 
sian, and Oriental poetry, — appeared in 1778. In 1772 he 
had begun a diligent study of the Reliques which, his 
wife tells us, became one of his great sources of re- 

103 Erwin Kircher, "Geschichte des Volkslieds" Zeitschrift fur deut- 
sche Wortforschung, vol. iv. p. 6. 

— 73 — 

creation. Indeed, he regarded the songs of primitive 
peoples as a source of inspiration second only to his Bible. 
The following year stood out as a great mountain peak in 
German literature ; Klopstock finished his epic the Messiah, 
Goethe published his Gots, Burger produced his Lenore, 
and Herder wrote his essay on Ossian and the Songs of Old 
Peoples. This latter came almost like a revelation, and re- 
sulted immediately in a great flood of translations of various 
ballads from the Reliques, with a consequent dissemination of 
interest in this kind of poetry. But the most important pledge 
of Herder's interest in folk-lore was, as we have remarked, his 
Volkslieder, a work of incomparable influence upon the de- 
velopment of German literature, in that it caused a just valua- 
tion to be placed upon popular poetry. It has been called the 
greatest forerunner in modern times of the scientific and 
aesthetic development of Germany, because it recognized 
the deep inner emotions of the most remote peoples and 
respected their individuality; and because out of its romantic 
conception of folk lore was bom the philology or the scientific 
study of folk languages. It pointed out that more than any 
other form of expression folk poetry was truly the voice of 
the people, beyond the powers of the individual, and the out- 
growth of the dynamic strength of the whole unit."* Herder 
did not realize at this time that countless treasures of song lay 
concealed within the limits of Germany, awaiting the magic 
word which should awaken them into new life. A few years 
later, in 1805, the glad note of discovery was sounded by 
Des Knaben Wunderhorn which awakened an echo of a 
thousand tongues, and paved the way for Ludwig Uhland 
with his great work, Alte hoch- imd niederdeutsche Volks- 
lieder in 1844 and 1845. Thus far popular poetry had been 
studied from a cultural and aesthetic point of view and not by 
philological methods. As a cultural element it greatly influenced 
the poets of romanticism., Heine, Morike and Eichendorff. With 
Uhland's critical edition the study of popular poetry became a 

104 Biirger expresses somewhat the same idea in his Hersens-Erguss 
iiber Volkspoesie written in 1775. He says in substance that all poetry- 
should be popular in order to have the seal of perfection. 

— 74 — 

matter of scholarship and its great influence on poets seemed 
to stop. 

Just twenty years before this Talvj had entered upon the 
study of popular poetry, and through her work with the Volks- 
liedcr der Serhen had gained an enviable position among the 
scholars of Europe. Ten years later by a paper in the Biblical 
Repository on the "Historical View of Slavic Literature," she 
took her place among those who were beginning to introduce 
this kind of literature into America. This paper was followed 
in 1836 by a discussion of the "Popular Poetry of the Teu- 
tonic Nations" in the North American Review; in 1840 by 
the epoch-making work, Charakteristik der Volkslieder;'^'^^ in 
1842 by a paper on "Spanish Popular Poetry" again in the 
North American Review, in 1852 by an enlarged and revised 
book form of her early work on Slavic literature ; in 1853 by 
an article on "French Poetry" in Putnam's Magazine ; and in 
1869 by a short sketch entitled "Die Kosaken und ihre histo- 
rischen Lieder" in Westermann's Monatshefte. 

The work of native Americans in this field was at that time 
practically a negligible quantity. Longfellow felt the strength 
and power of the movement, but never gave any extensive ex- 
pression to it. An article which he wrote for the North Amer- 
ican Rezncza on "Moral and Religious Poetry of Spain" could 
not, as may be inferred from the title, compare with the kind 
of work done in Germany and in later years by American 
scholars such as F. J. Child and F. B. Gummere. 

A close investigation of TalVj's two larger works, Characte- 
ristik der V olkslieder and Literature of the Slavic Nations, will 
reveal the character of her contributions, and the justice of the 
claim that they were truly cultural in nature. The Literature 
of the Slavic Nations, while it did not assume its present book 
form prior to 1852, originally appeared in the form of a 
rather lengthy paper in the Biblical Repository for 1834. In 
speaking of this article in the preface which he wrote for its 

10^ "The simplicity of the ballads which Mrs. Robinson has so co- 
piously translated," says Graham's Magazine, "will win many readers who 
take but little interest in intellectual history." Cf. Graham's vol. xxxvii, 
p. 66. 

— 75 — 

later expansion her husband said, "The essay was received with 
favor by the public ; and awakened an interest in many minds, 
as laying open a new field of information, hitherto almost in- 
accessible to the English reader," An insistent request on the 
part of scholars and public libraries led to its recasting into 
book form. These requests undoubtedly growing out of the 
excessive meagerness of sources of information regarding 
Slavic literature represented a general anticipation that this 
contribution would come very close to presenting this literature 
as one great whole. Other studies had been made, but, for the 
most part, merely were sketches of separate phases.^"*^ 

At the time Talvj wrote, the Slavic population amounted 
to nearly three times that of the United States. The gigantic 
strides of Russia, the fate of Poland, the cry of Panslavism 
that had recently resounded through Europe, had excited an 
intense interest in the Slavonic race throughout the civilized 
world. Thoughtful men often asked themselves whether the 
Slavic nations were yet to overflow the Germans of Western 
Europe as did the Celts, to form a new element of population 
with a new political and intellectual life. The mere considera- 
tion of such a possibility suggested the question, what was the 
nature of the moral and intellectual impulses, what the 
tendencies and spirit of these new men? 

The literature of the Slavs had been studied and discussed 
in various ways and for various purposes. More or less critical 
ingenuity was manifested in all of the studies, and all pos- 
sessed a certain element of thorough research ; but until the 
appearance of Talvj 's book no author had succeeded in pre- 
senting the results in a pleasing and thoroughly intelligible 
manner. In the words of the Independent for July 11, 1850, 
"It introduces the reader to a field of literary research which 
has long lain in comparative obscurity, but to which recent 

1"^ She herself called it merely an outline. The North American Re- 
view (vol. Ixxi, p. 329 ff ) in speaking of it said : "The outline is not 
only drawn with correctness and precision but the filling up is very 

thorough and satisfactory Even one who is a Slavic scholar by 

parentage and early education can recur with profit to this work for 
information concerning the literary character and pursuits of his country- 

-^ 76 — 

political struggles have given a melancholy interest All 

are eager to learn more of races, some of which, hitherto un- 
known almost in public affairs, have burst like a torrent upon 
the field of poHtical strife, shaking Europe to its center, per- 
forming prodigies of valor, and exhibiting a degree of en- 
thusiasm, energy, persistence, and tact, and an extent of re- 
sources almost unparalleled in the history of modern warfare." 

In the details of her work Talvj showed an almost per- 
fect knowledge of her subject matter. There were opportuni- 
ties for difference in opinion as to certain theories of origin 
of the Slavic languages, as to certain viewpoints of predomi- 
nance of the Russian branch over all other Slavic branches, 
and, without doubt, there was room for a decided variance with 
her treatment of the Polish people. But this was necessarily 
true in the case of a work worth while. Those who differed 
with her, and there were some, had seldom as good grounds 
for their views as she. The book first presented the theolog- 
ical background, and then considered in turn the political, philo- 
sophical, and literary history with a depth of investigation, 
vigor of analysis, and a comprehensiveness rarely exhibited 
in a study of this sort. "The volume is characterized by 
the extent and thoroughness of its investigation, its acute 
and judicious criticisms, its warm-hearted recognition of true 
poetry, even in an humble garb, and the forces and facility 
of its style," said Harper's Magazine which, with the North 
American Review was then perhaps the official organ of 
expression of the American public in literary matters. 

Her treatment of the subject was divided into four parts, 
exclusive of an introduction in which the author gave briefly 
but concisely an historical sketch of the Slavs in regard to their 
origin, their mythology, their early language, and the various 
branches of their language. Part one was in a measure a 
continuance of the introduction, in that it gave a history of the 
old or church languages and literature, a literature over which 
scholars and philologists had never agreed, but which had 
ever afforded a tempting field of research. In parts two and 
three the Slavs were treated under two general divisions : the 
Eastern, embracing the Russians, the Illyrico-Servians, the 

— 77 — ■ 

Croatians, the Slovenzi, and the Bulgarians ; and the Western, 
embracing the Bohemians, the Slovaks, the Poles and theVendes 
in Lusatia. The work gave some account of the characteristics 
which distinguished these different dialects, and traced their 
literature from its earliest period down to the time at which 
she wrote. She showed that the principal divisions of the Slavic 
literature were the Russian, the Bohemian, and the Polish; 
that the other branches of this great family possessed a litera- 
ture of humbler pretensions, while some of them — like the 
Slovaks, who inhabited the northwestern part of Hungary — 
had little that deserved the name. The fourth part of the book 
dealt with the folk lore of the Slavic nations, and was perhaps 
the most interesting portion. 

About twenty-five years before, Talvj had been the means 
of making known and appreciated the exquisite charm of Ser- 
vian poetry throughout Europe. Now she again paid tribute 
and homage to its merit, which, as she showed, lay not in its 
studied elegance and careful polish, but in its unequalled sim- 
plicity and naturalness. She put it thus: "All that the other 
Slavic nations, or the Germans, or the Scotch, or the Spaniards 
possess of popular poetry can at the utmost be compared with 
the lyrical part of the Servian songs, called by them female 
songs, because they are sung only by females and youths ; but 
the long extemporized epic compositions, by which a peasant 
bard sitting in a large circle of other peasants, in unpre- 
meditated but perfectly regular and harmonious verse, cele- 
brates the heroic deeds of their ancestors or contemporaries, 
has no parallel in the whole history of literature since the days 
of Homer." ^°^ It seemed to be the general consensus of 
opinion that this was the most interesting phase of her book, 
largely, as one New York paper remarked, because the speci- 
mens of poetry furnished by the author are remarkable for 
their freshness, purity, and energy of thought, and are rendered 
into graceful and well chosen English. The Bz'^ning Post also 
esteemed this portion of the book the most interesting. "The 
peculiar genius of this literature," it said, "is delineated in a 
skillful analysis and samples of the poems are given in Eng- 

^°^ Talvj, Literature of the Slavic Nations, p. 114. 

— 78 — 

lish preserving the peculiar rhythm, and, as far as may be, the 
verbal characteristics of the original. In these we seem to have 
a sort of key to the character of the race, and we rise from a 
perusal of these delightful pages with a feeling of closer ac- 
quaintance with the nations of the Slavic race." The force and 
ease with which she translated these poems was indeed re- 
markable, inasmuch as she was turning them into a language 
which was not her mother tongue, and which many hold to be 
one of the hardest of all languages to master. Her quick adap- 
tation to the idioms of English is one of the strongest tributes 
to her keen intellect and her wonderful power of intellectual as- 
similation. She had been in this country only six years when she 
wrote the article for the Biblical Repository. Even in this 
article, which we may term the foundation of her book, there 
was very little which would make one conscious that the pro- 
duction was from a foreign-born hand. The North American 
Reviezv spoke of this part of the book as a "precious gem, 
which gives brilliancy and animation to the whole." The 
woman's heart and hand were seen in it ; the touch was tender 
and sympathetic, the very characteristics which caused Goethe 
to rejoice that the work with the Servian poetry, twenty-five 
years before, had fallen into the hands of a woman, who was 
at the same time a scholar in every sense of the world. 

In considering Slavic popular poetry as a whole Talvj said 
that the poetry of the Slavic nation was wild, passionate, and 
tender ; love and war were its common themes. The love 
expressed in the Slavic songs was the natural love of the human 
breast, from its most tender and spiritual affection to irre- 
pressible sensuality. It was not the sophisticated love of civili- 
zation, it was the pure deep love of the unrestrained heart. 
The Slavs still followed the dictates of nature, and no artificial 
point of honor kept the hero from fleeing when he had met 
one stronger than himself. In its general tone the Slavic 
popular poetry was oriental. To enjoy it fully the reader had 
to let himself drift into an atmosphere of foreign views and 
prejudices. In this atmosphere all elements blended as one, the 
North and South, the East and West. "The suppleness of 
Asia and the energy of Europe, the passive fatalism of the 

— 79 — 

Turk and the active religion of the Christian, the revengeful 
spirit of the oppressed, and the child-like resignation of him 
who cheerfully submits, all these seeming contradictions find 
an expressive organ in the Slavic popular poetry." ^°* 

The interest in this work was widespread. In the St. 
Petersburg German paper for 1834, No. 227, I found a very in- 
teresting notice which was a reecho of the admiration ex- 
pressed by some Servian scholars upon the appearance of her 
work with Servian folk lore.^"^ "A ship from Boston has just 
arrived," this notice read, "bringing us this article from 
the pen of a highly esteemed German authoress. It 
is the same whom we have to thank foor a transla- 
tion of Servian folk songs published by Wuk Stephan- 

owitsch Karadschitsch It was scarcely to be 

hoped that Mrs. Robinson, as such, would continue her interest 
in the Slavic world, now so far removed ; but behold, here 
comes an essay to us, in which the writer gives information 
to her new countrymen and to learned England in regard to 
a race of people hardly known by name. With wonderful 
skill, using all the sources of information at hand, she has 
presented the relation of the various Slavic peoples, their 
languages and their dialects. Certainly every friend of the 
Slavs must thank her for this, but above all should the Eng- 
lish be thankful, for whom she has illumined a new field, and 
in so doing rendered them a true service. We feel all the more 
moved to acquaint our readers with the existence of this work, 
inasmuch, as far as we know, only very few similar works have 
come to us in Russia." 

The first publication of the book attracted an unusual 
interest, and it obtained almost at once the distinction 
of being the most thorough and complete, as well as the 
first analysis of Slavonic literature extant. How Goethe 
woud have rejoiced over this work had he lived to 
see it ! The Evening Post saw in it a "work of which we ought 
to be proud, as the production of one of the adopted daughters 
of our country, who, having acquired a reputation among the 

losxalvj, Slavic Literature, p. 320. 
109 See chapter II, 

— 80 — 

authors of her native literature, now became engaged in adding 
to the riches of ours." The North American Review also 
recognized the volume as a valuable accession to our literature ; 
and even the conservative English magazines spoke in most 
glowing terms of it. 

From an earnest and thorough study of the songs of one 
branch of the Slavic nation, Talvj had thus added to her field 
of research the whole Slavic nation; and now she gradually 
extended her consideration to all the nations of Europe. Her 
Charakteristik der Volkslicder, which was published in 1840, 
occupies a unique place in comparative literature. "Not with- 
out hesitation," she said, "do I send these leaves out into the 
world. Above all I would not have them regarded as a collec- 
tion of folk songs. The collection is altogether too incomplete 
for that. Nor would I have them regarded as an historical 
text book, for the background of many parts of the picture 
must of necessity be concealed in shadow. I would wish the 
volume, however insignificant, to be regarded solely as a con- 
tribution to cultural history." ^^'^ By the phrase "concealed 
in shadow" she had reference to such obscure sections of na- 
tional folk lore that of the Norwegians, concerning which 
she could find not a single publication of popular songs. Some 
of the older Saxon songs were omitted because they came to 
her notice too late. 

Poetry is the natural language of tlie human race. Prim- 
itive peoples must needs use a form of expression which is at 
once creative, figurative, and imitative. The poetry of the 
earliest childhood of a people is like the speech of a stammering 
child. The people go into ecstacy over sensual pleasures just 
as a child does ; and like a child they vent their grief and pain 
in loud and unrestrained lamentations. The more man comes 
under the dominion of external circumstances of government, 
civilization, and culture, the greater becomes the distance be- 
tween life and poetry. His vocabulary develops until it 
gradually loses its imaginative and figurative qualities. The 
subjective gives way to the objective. But the origin of all 
speech, poetic, figurative, and subjunctive, remains at the basis 

11*' Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, Vorwort. 

— 81 — 

of all languages of the world in spite of all refinement of thought 
and expression, in spite of all boundary lines of logic. It is quite 
probable that originally poetry, as the expression of the emo- 
tions, was once identical with song. If this be true, we must con- 
sider "song" as a term applied to a certain rhythmic raising and 
lowering of the voice, similar in measure to a chant. As one 
listens to a very young child sitting on the floor amusing him- 
self with his blocks and other toys, entirely unconscious of his 
surroundings, the sounds which come to the listener certainly 
bear a resemblance to artless melody. Herder said that for a 
long time singing and speaking were one among the old races. 
In Wilhehn Meister, Goethe said, "Song is the first step in 
education; all else connects itself with it and is harmonized 
by it." "^ 

Chamisso, in his investigations among primitive nations 
found that none of the peoples whom he visited were entirely 
ignorant of poetry and song. As the various peoples dififered in 
their cultural development, so their songs differed also, varying 
from mere wild shrieks, as it seemed, to rhythmic and melod- 
ious intonations. These intonations seemed to represent the 
satisfaction of an inborn need. Wide difference in national 
character gave rise to nature-poetry and folk-poetry, which, 
despite their many contrasts, Talvj attributed to the same 
source. Very frequently folk poetry and national poetry are 
conceived as one and the same thing; which, however, in a 
strict sense is not true. Talvj draws the distinction very well 
when she says: "In the broad sense of the word all the poetic 
literature of a people was national ; in a narrower sense only 
that poetry was national which dealt primarily with the pe- 
culiarities and conditions of nations to which the various so- 
called national poets belonged. The poets, not the people, pro- 
duced this type of poetry. Shakespeare, Goethe, Victor Hugo 
were national poets. On the other hand, folk poetry was not 
always poetry which was read and sung by the common people, 
nor even necessarily a part of such poetry ; for if this were the 
case, the Bible would be folk poetry." 

Folk lore, whether in the form of songs or of fables, is 

m Goethe, Wilhehn Meisters Wanderjahre, chap, i, Book II. 

— 82 — 

that production which, originating among a people in their 
internal and domestic relations has an influence in the develop- 
ment of this people. Folk songs are the common property of 
all, — for all had a hand in producing them. Storm in his Im- 
niensee has put a beautiful description of folk song into the 
mouth of Reinhardt : "They are not made, they grow, they fall 
from the air, they fly over the land like gossamers, here and 
there, and are sung in a thousand different places at the same 
time. In these songs we find our very own acts and sufferings ; 
it is as if all of us had helped to make them, all working to- 
gether." Talvj's own definition carries with it the same 
thought: "Whether they proceed from the past or present 
they are the blossoms of popular life bom and nurtured by the 
care of the people, cherished by their joys, watered by their 
tears, and because of this are characteristic through and 
through of the great mass of a nation and its condition." ^^^ 

In connection with this Talvj's theory regarding the rela- 
tive age of the lyric and the epic is worthy of consider- 
ation; for although it is a theory not generally accepted, 
some of her views may help adjust rival explanations. — The 
oldest monuments of poetry are, as we know, epic in character. 
But in these very epics there are enough traces and evidences 
to lead one to say that back of the epic was the lyric. To put 
it more directly, the lyric embodies the present, the epic the 
past. Each new situation calls forth its expression, and the 
resulting songs are consequently not guarded within the strong 
box of script, but within the minds and hearts of the people 
themselves, principally of the women and youths. The epic 
is in reality a development of the lyric, or a sequence of it. 
As we look over the ballads of various primitive peoples we 
find, for example, of the songs before a battle, some that are 
bright and strong, filled with encouraging cheer for the war- 
riors ; some that are deeply pathetic, filled with the heartache 
of a sweetheart as she bids her lover farewell, or of a mother 
as she sends her son forth to serve his country. Always, how- 
ever, we find even beneath the pathos an heroic recognition of 
necessity and duty. After the battle, there are songs of victory, 

ii^Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 11. 

— 83 — 

wildly ecstatic, or songs of defeat touchingly pathetic in their 
tone of resignation. And thus in countless instances the epic 
gives evidence of having developed from the lyric.^^^ 

In the three great collections of folk lore, Herder's, Ar- 
nim and Bretano's, and Talvj's, the last alone drew a sharp 
distinction between folk songs and popular songs, and so may 
be said to have succeeded better in depicting the cultural de- 
velopment of primitive peoples. Herder did not restrict himself 
to folk songs in his collection, probably because of a general 
indifference on the part of the public; Arnim and Brentano 
followed his example in their Des Knaben Wunderhorn, probab- 
ly for the same reason. So with other collections; for one 
reason or another they became popular and national in charac- 

In her Charakteristik der Volkslieder the author did not 
content herself with compiling great quantities of material at 
hand. She strove rather to study the material, and, by com- 
paring it with the historic conditions of the people, to arrive 
at a clear view of the very essence of folk song ; if possible, she 
wished even to recognize the historical development of the 
poetry of separate peoples, from its naive to its conscious state. 
The work was a real contribution to cultural history, for the 
author succeeded in showing how very close was the connec- 
tion between the customs of a people and the peculiarities of 
its songs. She demonstrated that changes which took place in 
a people's mode of thinking and living could be found in its 

The first division of the work contained four chapters de- 
voted to a description of the folk songs of the Asiatic, Malayan, 
Polynesian, African, and the original Americans, all peoples 
who were more or tess primitive. Talvj gave to a compar- 
atively uninformed public a vast number of facts with regard 
to these nations ; facts, which, for the most part, had hitherto 
been inaccessible. Her ingenuity combined these with exam- 
ples of their poetry in a m.anner altogether pleasing, interest- 
ing and instructive. A quotation from Blatter fur literarische 
Unterhaltung expressed the appreciation and interest which 

113 Talvj, Charakteristik der Volkslieder, Introduction. 

^ 84 — 

this division aroused in literary Europe. "We consider alto- 
gether excellent this latter description which, in all probabil- 
ity, is based on first hand knowledge of the author, and which 
shows how the Indian possesses no real talent for poetry as we 
should naturally expect, but rather, because of a predominant 
power of reason and a passionate ambition, seems capable of 
and inclined in the highest degree toward eloquence." ^^* 

The second division of the book, which dealt with Euro- 
pean people, Talvj introduced by a chapter presenting the 
characteristics of Germanic folk lore. Especial attention was 
drawn to the family likenesses which, despite outward differ- 
ences, existed among the traditional songs of all European 
peoples. In this way only could a repeated use of certain ex- 
pressions, the repeated presence of the riddle, and the fre- 
quency of the question and answer form be accounted for. In 
the thoughts themselves marked similarities could be traced. 
For instance, almost all nations believed in the endurance of 
true love ; in the power of inordinate grief to disturb the rest 
of the departed one; in divine destiny and justice.^^^ She 
divided the Germanic peoples into three large groups ; the 
Scandinavian, the German, and the British. The British fell 
under two heads, English and Scotch ; the German, under 
German and Dutch ; the Scanliavian under Icelandic, 
Faroish, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The Norwegian 
and Swedish divisions were, much to the author's regret, left 
in an uncompleted state. Each division was prefaced by in- 
troductory remarks, historical, philological, and political in 
character, according as history, philology, or politics played an 
important role in the cultural development of the people under 
discussion. Talvj made use of every opportunity to compare 
the various poetical forms of the different peoples, and she 
combined with all her general discussions illustrative and 
characteristic songs. These three elements, introduction, dis- 

11* Blatter fur literarische Unterhaltung, Jan. 18, 1841. 

11^ Cf. Anhang su Wilhelm Grimm's Uehersetzung der ddnischen 
Heldenlieder. In regard to this idea of likenesses Jakob Grimm said, 
"The divine, the spirit of poetry, is the same among all people and knows 
only one source." 

— 85 — 

cussion, and poetry, made the book what she wished it to be, 
a contribution to cultural history. 

Some criticism was expressed of her treatment of German 
poetry, upon the ground that it was lacking both in material 
and in theory of development. One of her critics excused 
her partially on the ground of her long absence from Germany 
during early youth. There was a noticeable predomin- 
ance of love lyrics. The popular German drinking songs 
were entirely lacking. It cannot be doubted that these songs 
are quite as really folk-productions as some of the Weihnachts- 
Lieder, and their absence from her collection is a genuine 
flaw in her work. 

Her treatment of Scotch poetry was perhaps the best part 
of the book; for in addition to a perfect familiarity with her 
material, the author seemed to have a sincere love for this 
division of her subject. She herself said that there was no 
richer field in all Europe for the collector of folk songs than 
Scotland. Her statement of likenesses and differences be- 
tween the English and the Scotch poetry is well worth any 
scholar's consideration. It is keen, searching, and well ex- 
pressed. ^^® 

K. A. Varnhagen von Ense ^^' saw in this book a revival 
of Herder's thoughts, extended and elevated, however, to fit 
the measure of an advanced knowledge. In another sense it 
seemed to him a new form of the Wunderhorn, raised out of 
German limitations into the field of all folk song. Open- 
mindedness, genuine sympathy, sane reason, comprehensive 
knowledge, and sound judgment had, he felt, given the author 
an unusual equipment for handling such a subject. Chance, 
moreover, assisted her by first affording her a residence in 
Kussia during the most susceptible years of her life, and later 
by giving her a residence in America during years of more 
mature thought and sympathy, thus leading her into a more 
intimate knowledge of English and Scotch characteristics 
through her ever increasing master}^ of the English langu- 

11^ Charakteristik der Volkslieder, p. 603. 

11''^ Jahrhucher fur wissenschaftliche Kritik, No. 86, 1840. 

— 86 — 

Some critics felt that she had taken the idea of "Volks- 
lieder" in too narrow a sense. She herself, however, had a 
compiler's natural sense of the necessity for selecting and 
choosing most carefully. Goethe warned the authors of the 
Wimdcrhorn against the sing-song of the Minnesingers, and 
the wretched commonness and flatness of the Meistersingers ; 
and some of the omissions in Talvj's book may be due to- the 
influence of such a warning, although it was never extended to 

From the criticisms and comments which I have considered 
worthy of mention in this chapter, we may feel certain that 
Talvj's position in the literary world was now firmly estab- 


History of thi; Colonization of Ne;w England 

FROM 1607-1698. 

History of the Colonization of New England from 1607-1698. 

American historiography is of comparatively recent origin. 
In her introduction to her Colonisation von Neii Bngland 
Talvj states : "Throughout the whole eighteenth century here 
and everywhere else the spirit of historical research slumbered. 
Valuable documents lay dust covered in undisturbed rest in 
public archives or private libraries. Uninterpreted manu- 
scripts served as wrapping paper." The catalog of writers who 
manifested any noteworthy interest in investigation and com- 
pilation is a brief one. One of the chief of them, Thomas 
Prince, gathered material with wonderful diligence and pa- 
tience, and succeeded in presenting to the public a Chronolog- 
ical History of Netv England up to 1633. To Call'ender and 
Backus, minor names, we are also grateful for many original 
documents which in one way or another throw light upon the 
darkest periods of American history. Hutchinson's History 
of Massachusetts, which appeared toward the close of the Rev- 
olution, should have been a mine of valuable historical mate- 
rials, for as royal governor of Massachusetts the author had 

— 87 — 

access to the very authentic manuscript material ; but unfort- 
unately much that he had collected was lost or destroyed during 
the Stamp Act riots." 

Amid this poverty of formali collections of facts or man- 
uscripts, Talvj found four main sources of historical data upon 
New England; Cotton Mather's Ecclesiastical History, Wil- 
liam Bradford's diary, John Winthrop's History of New Eng- 
land, and Edward Johnson's IV onder-working Providence of 
Zion's Savior. The first of these, known also as the Magnolia 
Christi Americana, Talvj considered authentic, but very nar- 
row in viewpoint. This history extends over the period be- 
tween 1620 and 1698. It is regarded as the most important 
book produced in America during the seventeenth century. 
It has been suggested that as a history it was unsatisfactory 
because the author was too near events to be strictly impar- 
tial. His personal feelings perhaps unconsciously colored his 
judgments. In regard to facts he is charged with being care- 
less and inaccurate. However, the work is indispensible to an 
understanding of New England history. The diary of Wil- 
liam Bradford, governor of New England, was still in man- 
uscript in 1847, and was not known except in fragments. 
Some fifty years later the manuscripts were collected and pub- 
lished. Much of the original material became a part of the 
church records of Plymouth through Nathaniel Morton, a 
nephew of Bradford. Morton also used many of Bradford's 
accounts in his Nezv Englands Memorial, but many of the 
manuscripts were lost during the Revolution and have never 
been found. Until 1790 John Winthrop's History of England 
remained in manuscript form. Cotton Mather and Hubbard 
used it, the latter quoting much of it word for word without 
mentioning the source. In 1790 the part dealing with the 
history of Massachusetts was published under the title of 
A Journal of the Transactions and Occurrences in the Settle- 
ment of Massachusetts. Not until 1825 was Winthrop's 
entire collection given to the public. He was, in Talvj 's 
estim.ation, the leader in the history of the period from 
1630 to 1649, The chief value of Edward Johnson's history, 
which appeared in 1654, lay in the fact that the author was 

— 88 — 

a contemporary of the events which he described. However, 
its style was weak and difficult to read because of a rather 
absurd and artificial piety running through the whole. In 
1658 it was plagiarized by Ferdinand Gorges and published 
as the work of Gorges' grandfather under the title, America 
painted to Life, A True History. 

There were, of course, many lesser sources deserving of 
a brief mention. Those for Massachusetts comprise several 
small manuscripts by Edward Winslow ; the personal letter 
of the vice-governor Thomas Dudley to the Countess of 
Lincoln, patroness of the colonies; manuscripts by Higgin- 
son. Wood, Welde, Lechford and Josselyn which recorded 
personal experiences ; and Sir Ferdinand Gorges' Brief Narra- 
tion of the Original Undertaking and the Advancement of the 
Plantations. The latter was valuable as showing an English- 
man's theories and plans for American settlements. For the 
Indian Wars Mason, Underbill, Gardiner, and Vincent con- 
tributed much. The history of Providence and Rhode Island 
is based almost entirely on rather imperfect accounts of the 
first founders, Clark, Gorton, and Roger Williams, largely 
in the form of letters. Finally, for the settlement of Con- 
necticut, with the exception of a very few letters, there was 
really no authentic contemporaneous account. The govern- 
mental chronicles and various church archives of later times 
furnished practically all of the historical information of this 
colony. A General History of Connecticut, published in Lon- 
don in 1781 was so unreliable that it was of little value as 
history. Talvj said of this book, "Nothing can be more 
characteristic of the sentiment against America then ruling in 
England, than this bungling piece of work which had its second 
edition the following year." 

Talvj had a single criticism for all these sources : they 
lacked an independent viewpoint and a sense of detached his- 
torical perspective. English historians, on the other hand, 
she condemned for their lack of intimacy with American 
conditions and events, and their inability to grasp the spirit 
of what they recorded. Chalmers alone was an authority on 
New England. Neal's history was little more than a reorgan- 

— 89 — 

ization of Cotton Mather's, with greater purity of style. The 
prejudice against Americans was such as to make perverted 
and false statements more acceptable than facts, and thus many 
errors circulated by these careless early historians are, today, 
regarded as authentic facts. But these were not, in her mind, 
the most deplorable phases of early histories, whether English 
or American. Our so-called standard histories clothed the 
events of the formative days of our country in a mantel of 
myth and legend. The very criticisms of Talvj's history 
made at the outset by the North American Review gave evi- 
dence of the tendency to require of a history a novelistic style, 
in order that it might be popular v^ith the masses. Unfor- 
tunately the truth did not always make a popular appeal to 
the masses, and as a consequence truth had been sacrificed for 
the sake of popularity in a large number of our historical writ- 
ings. Even Bancroft, who w^as generally considered the stand- 
ard American historian, wrote, it is claimed, "most cautiously, 
with the greatest dread of the slightest admission, and with 
intense straining to make out a perfect case." "^ Why, it 
might well be asked did not Talvj translate Bancroft for her 
German readers, instead of undertaking to write a hisory her- 
self ? As I see it, the answer lies in this fact : no American 
history told the truth as gleaned entirely from original sources 
and as evolved out of a clear unbiased view of these sources. 
Talvj was almost a century ahead of her time in her scien- 
tific investigation and use of original sources in these pictures 
of early colonial history. Only within recent years have the 
many sad deficiencies in American historical writings begun 
to be generally felt. Of late, through the almost universal 
dissemination and improvement of public libraries, the mul- 
tiplied opportunities of gaining access to old pamphlets and 
original evidences of all sorts, American scholarship has every- 
where been aroused to a desire for a clearer knowledge and 
a more tangible grasp of events upon this continent. "'^ 

118 Fischer, Myth Making Process in Histories of the U. S., p. 68. 

11" Cf. Proceedings of American Philosophical Society, vol. li, p. 54. 
Truth is winning over fiction, as may be seen from some of the recent 
historical writings. The names of some of Sydney G. Fischer's works 

-^ 90 — 

A brief comparison of Talvj's history with Bancroft's will 
show how in some respects hers fulfilled even a greater mis- 
sion than his. First of all, Bancroft, as an American writing 
for an American public, wrote from an American viewpoint, 
while Talvj, a German- American writing for a German pub- 
lic, chose a German viewpoint. We may characterize the dif- 
ference between these two positions as a difference between 
a fervid patriotism and a calm, scientific interest, which made 
an unbiased search among original sources for materials which 
should present all sides of the historical situations, the side 
of the unsuccessful, as well as of the successful. In the sec- 
ond place, Bancroft's work was not as concentrated as Talvj's, 
inasmuch as it encompassed a much greater space and period 
of time. In comparison with his history she called hers "a 
single room of a whole big house." ^^^ Naturally, since the 
German viewpoint would, in many instances, be different from 
that of an enthusiastic American, a German would dwell on 
the smaller details more than an American. To all appearances 
America was advancing by leaps and bounds, fairly striding 
through the fields of industrial and political developm.ent. It 
was only logical that an American historian should pay 
little or no attention to man}^ of the small and, to him, in- 
significant details in the early years of colonization. It 
was only logical that a foreigner with a keenly scientific and 
wide-awake mind should, after the first surprise at such rapid 
advancement, seek its causes in the details of early establish- 

are significant. (Mr. Fischer is a writer and lawyer of considerable 
prominence in Philadelphia 1856 — ) We find above his name such 
titles as these : True Benjamin Franklin; The True William Penn; 
The True History of the American Revolution; The True Daniel 
Webster, etc. Mr. Fischer says in regard to this realization of the 
importance of truth in historical writings, "Within the last two years, 
in writing a life of Daniel Webster, I had occasion to examine the 
original evidence of our history from the war of 1812 to the Compro- 
mise of 1850, and I found that it had substantially been used in our 
histories of that period. There was no ignoring of it or concealment of 
it such as I had found when I investigated the original evidence of the 

120 Colonisation von Neu England, p. xiii. 

— 91 — 

ment and development. An American's enthusiasm does not 
in any way deprecate his ability; it is merely a reflex of the 
life and development about him. This reflex could not exist 
in a foreigner. The fact that Talvj admired Bancroft and his 
work led her to consider m.any of his views very carefully, 
and in many instances the two agreed. Yet, vv^th her decided 
leaning toward the great historian, she remained independent 
in her judgments ; and in some instances, again, the two writers 
seemed to be almost diametrically opposed. In speaking of 
Bancroft's History of the United States, Francis J. Grund said, 
"Bancroft's history seems on the whole to have fallen short of 
its purpose — it lacks a philosophical and calm view which 
should put the life of the states into accord with the general 
tone of humanity." ^-^ 

Another great point of difference between Talvj 's history 
and Bancroft's was in the distribution of emphasis. Talvj 
laid great emphasis on settlements, dwelling at length on 
customs and religious views, and the development of law and 
order out of the inner life and character of the colonists. Ban- 
croft, on the other hand, perhaps because of the greater scope 
of his work, set forth monumental figures in the early history 
of New England, and focused the minor developments in these. 
The former's was a history of colonial spirit rather than of 
colonial activity. It contained the elements of a "Kulturge- 
schichte", a form of history as yet undeveloped. 

But the question naturally arises, why did she write this 
history for German readers? In spite of an almost perfect 
mastery of English style, she always felt more at home with 
the German language, and as a consequence the greater part 
of the work was written in German. This fact, however, 
would not stamp her work as written for German readers. It 
is undoubtedly true that, although she wrote from a point of 
view whose chief consideration was the interest in America 
and the knowledge of American afl^airs v/hich then existed in 
Germany, she sincerely hoped that her work would find read- 
ers on both sides of the Atlantic, and was by no means un- 
mindful of a possible American audience. There were many 

121 Francis J. Grund, Die Amerikaner, p. 106. 

— 92 — 

Americans who read the German fiuentl3^ and whose ever- 
increasing interest in German ideals and methods had al- 
ready shown that they considered the tongue no barrier to an 
understanding of a new work of learning. But in the main, as 
she herself consciously asserted, her ambition was to interest 
the Teutonic race in the land which was destined to become 
yearly the home of more and more of its children. She 
felt that intim.ate relations must in time grow up between 
the Germans of the Fatherland and those of the New World ; 
and inasmuch as conditions in the two countries were so dif- 
ferent, she believed a knowledge of America necessary in 
order that Germany might the better and more readily adjust 
herself to the demands of this new relationship. She realized 
the significance of the role America was playing in the 
world's history, and she wanted the Germans to realize this 
significance in terms of early development. Before Talvj, 
Ebeling and Kufahl were the only Germans who had made a 
study of the colonial United States. At the time they wrote 
many of the main sources were still hidden, and furthermore 
they lacked personal knowledge of the locality, the people, and 
the institutions about which they wrote. Both, like Bancroft, 
included a field of far greater scope in time and place. Already, 
however, so considerable an interest was being manifested in 
Germany about America's history, that a history from the pen 
of a German-American w^as tacitly dem.anded. Nothing bears 
better witness to Talvj 's hope of bringing about an under- 
standing between the two nations than her copious notes which 
made many expressions and view-points clear to the foreign 
reader, and prevented in advance the confusion which often 
arose out of misundertanding. 

The task of the historian was not small, as Talvj realized. 
His task it was to give the reader a clear view not merely of 
salient events, but of details which, seeming in themselves 
cumbersomely trivial, assumed the greatest significance when 
the proper relation to their far-reaching consequences was 
shown. In doing this, Talvj showed exceptional skill. Her 
viewpoint as we have before intimated, was larger than that 
of the ordinary historian of political events, for her work 

— 93 — 

involved a consideration of social development in which private, 
public, religious, moral, individual, and general relations 
entered. Her treatment of the subject matter was of such 
specific and concrete nature that the situations portrayed bore 
the stamp of truth and reality to the reader. 

She portrayed the Puritans justly and impartially. ^^- A 
pride in the Puritan fathers had grown up, especially in New 
England, which stifled all recognition of other forces back of 
American progress. Again, America was becoming a great 
nation ; she was trying hard to develop a national culture, and 
nothing was more natural than that, in this conscious effort, 
she should be blinded to all but present achievement. To lose 
sight of humble beginnings and to credit failure and success 
impartially is a natural consequence of ill-restrained enthusi- 
asm in any new project whose development and progress are 
rapid. A careful reading of Talvj's history will show very 
plainly why an American national culture did not develop dur- 
ing the early days of settlement. Many highly cultured men 
and women came to America but they alone could not exert 
decided humanitarian influence; likewise pioneer life did not in 
itself present the conditions in which to develop a native cult- 
ure. For a people to exchange the surroundings of a highly 
developed civilization for the less advanced or primitive cul- 
tural environm.ent of a new country, always involves an abase- 
ment of ideals. "Despondency, homesickness, and a general 
lowering of all the higher aspirations and ideals seems the 
inevitable result until the psychic transformation has taken 
place, from which the energetic personality emerges with a 

12^ Prof. C. E. Stowe of Cincinnati said, " We have read no work 
which on the whole appears to us to give so accurate a picture of the 
Puritan character as that of Talvj. It is just, discriminating, disposed 
to commend and not fearing to censure. The author is in a good posi- 
tion to develop the subject according to its real merit She stands 

in the attitude of a spectator, yet with enough of interest in the scene 
and of sympathy with it to give a lively and glowing picture of it." (It 
refers to the task of giving this picture). For complete criticism by 
Stowe see Bihliotheca Sacra, vol. 7, p. 91 — 108, 1850. 

— 94 — 

resolution to create a new world of his own out of new sur- 
roundings." ^-^ 

Hard, unyielding primitive conditions of life and sus- 
tenance left the early settlers neither time nor inclination for 
the development of music, art, literature, or even religion. 
Later, when the time and inclination came, as life became less 
strenuous, America was forced to seek the seeds of culture 
without herself. What culture the pioneers brought with them 
had been destroyed by the harshness of nature and the seeds 
had not been planted in their descendants forcefully enough 
to warrant their development without external aid. Talvj's 
treatment of the Puritans makes us feel the force of this truth 
in such a way that, while we continue to admire the virtues 
and the courage of the New England fathers just as much as 
before, we begin at the same time to investigate other sources 
of national culture. The Puritans did not even have tinie to 
develop a religion. They fought to maintain certain forms of 
worship, but religion as such was swallowed up in the struggle. 

In a number of personal letters Talvj presented a glimpse 
into the household of an English Puritan family, which 
afforded the best and most vivid "Sittenbild" of the times. 
One could not fail to realize that these early settlers were as 
cruel and stubborn as nature herself. Back of the establish- 
ment of many of the colonies lay the attempt to force certain 
individuals to a strict adherence to many customs, barbarian 
almost in their simplicity and crudity. Infringement of per- 
sonal liberty was found on every hand. With a strict regard 
for truth Talvj did not see the mildness in the laws of the 
Puritans which almost all other writers of history extolled. 
True, they made no attempt to base their institutions on any 
of the bloody decrees of the darkest period of the middle 
ages ; but the fact was lost sight of that many of these bloody 
decrees, found in the laws of European nations, would be 
empty and meaningless on the statute books of the Puritan 
settlers. As Talvj said, in the wilderness of America there 
was not even the possibility of many of the crimes found 

123 Goebel, Annual Report of American Historical Association for 
1909, p. 188. 

— 95 — 

among the kingdoms of Europe. Want of provision for the 
punishment of impossible crimes is no evidence of mild- 
ness. The infringement of personal liberty, certainly, was 
not a mark of mildness to be extolled. The Puritans were 
not a free people. The stocks, branding, ducking, whipping, 
and other equally harsh forms of punishment stared them in 
the face for the slightest offence. It was an offence to wear 
certain forms of head dress and hair dress; certain kinds of 
clothes were forbidden; smoking and chewing were forbid- 
den; the celebration of Christmas or Easter was a serious 
offence. There was even an ordinance against the use of the 
word saint as a part of the name of a town. If such acts 
were considered an offence, one can easily see what must 
have been the attitude toward offences which we would con- 
sider real. But this harshness, as Talvj pointed out, was 
only a reflex of the times in which tolerance was considered 

To explain this intolerance and to temper the judgment 
toward the Puritans, which might otherwise seem too harsh, 
she worked out very carefully a background of religious in- 
tolerance in England which drove men and women into the 
wilderness of America in order to worship as their conscience 
dictated. Her account comprehended the whole development 
of the protestant spirit which led to the emigration, showing 
what influence the ideas and ideals of other countries had 
in hastening it. She demonstrated the connection of this bit 
of local history with world history by giving it a cultural 
background, not a statistical one. Step by step she traced the 
growth of discontent, the growth of suppression of individ- 
ual freedom of thought and action, the gradual growth of 
royal dominance over the very souls of the subjects. With 
influences of similar nature pouring in from all sides she 
showed how this discontent finally became the bomb of revo- 
lution and evolution. Having completed this background, 
she showed how the process of development went on logically 
to the history of the first settlers in New England. The very 
nature of their separation anticipated intolerance after coming 
to this country. The material which Talvj used was 

— 96 — 

not new, nor was her handling of it entirely original, but she 
collected into one book a network of facts which, though re- 
lated, had not seemed so, because they had to be sought in a 
number of widely scattered sources. 

Talvj's treatment of the Puritans showed plainly dem- 
ocracy was not an original condition, as so many enthusiastic 
American writers claimed. The primary object of the first 
settlers in coming to America was to replant the Church of 
England in Am.erica, instituting in the process a few changes 
from the prescribed ritual. Their whole energy seemed to be 
directed toward establishing new congregations, and each new 
one in turn was greeted with great rejoicing. There was no 
democratic spirit to be found in these various congregations, 
what happened in one happened in all. Excommunication in 
New England during the seventeenth century was not less 
serious than the papal excommunication. Only those who 
were church members and who subscribed to all the ordin- 
ances of the church had a voice in the government ; the colon- 
ists were swayed by a limited monarchy, with the church 
as the monarch. Out of the very necessities of primitive 
life the democracy developed in America from an original 
theocracy. From a representative church assembly the step 
to a representative state assembly was not great. At first 

an aristocracy threatened but the trials and hardships of 
pioneer life gave birth to democratic tendencies which could 
not be quelled. "Thus early,'' Talvj said, "began the demo- 
cratic tendencies of the people, the natural product of a 
wilderness and a condition in which physical strength 
was at a premium."^-* The church did not exist because of 
the state, but the state because of the church, and if the state 
attained to a complete demorcracy it was only due to the fact 
that the constitution of the Purian church, in as far as dem- 
ocracy harmonized with theocracy, was democratic. This view 
was quite different from that ordinarily expressed — that the 
origin of our democracy was in the Puritan church. 

Another and valuable feature of Talvj's book was her 
estimate of the Indian. On the whole, as we have remarked 

^-* Talvj, Colonisation von Neu England, p. 225. 

— 97 — 

before, it was generous and charitable. While she did not 
try to excuse the Indian for his blood curdling acts of cruelty, 
she sought for and, in many cases, found definite causes for 
such cruelty. Beneath the cruelty which caused many trav- 
elers and writers to class him as a beast, she found the man, 
with a man's feelings and a man's honor. Over and over 
again she showed that the first relations between the whites 
and the redmen were friendly, that the redmen venerated 
the whites and believed that through them great happiness 
would come; and that gradually, as their simple dream 
failed to come true, suspicion was aroused. They began to 
feel that the white man was not dealing honestly with them, 
bvj.t was slowly and surely dispossessing them of what was 
theirs by the natural right of original occupation. When this 
dispossession reached the form of slavery, a crime which the 
Indians hated above all others, their passions were thorough- 
ly roused, and then many of their acts were bestial in the 
highest degree. She did not minimize Indian treachery, but 
described it quite as vividly as the treachery of the whites to- 
ward the Indians. We sometimes feel the Indian cared less 
for a human life than he did for that of one of the wild 
animals of the forest, but the white man earned the title to 
the same indifference by the manner in which he dealt with 
the savages. In most cases, as Talvj pointed out, the savage 
was pursuing the one and only law of life known to him, 
self-preservation. That the same could hardly be said for 
the white man, she illustrated by an incident first related by 
Hutchinson. During the war with the Indians in 1637, after 
suprising them in their fortifications, Mason set fire to a 
wigwam. The blaze, spreading rapidly among the dry under- 
brush, burned the inmates out like so many rats. Escape was 
absolutely impossible. The few who did escape the flames 
fell into the hands of the English as prisoners. Later, in the 
division of prisoners a dispute arose over the ownership of 
four women. In order to settle the dispute the four women 
were executed. As Hutchinson said, "The cleverness 
as well as the morality of this act can well be questioned." 
Talvj 's chapter on the conversion of the Indians is 

— 98 — 

worthy of especial attention, because the failure of the Indians 
to embrace the Christian religion has given rise to many of 
the harshest condemnations of their character. The chief 
cause of this failure, as she saw it, was the fact that too many 
of the missionaries did not know the Indian language. One 
need only glance over the accounts of the Indians as given 
us by travelers, to realize at once that the successful mission- 
aries were those who knew their language and who thus 
could enter into their real thoughts and feelings. Many of 
the German missionaries, as well as John Eliot, Roger Wil- 
liams, and Pierson owed their success to having learned the 
language before attempting to convert the Indians. The 
success of one Daniel Gookin's sons in training helpers for 
missionary work among the Indians them.selves, struck a de- 
cided blow at the theory advanced by so many that these na- 
tive Americans were incapable of culture. As early as 1664 the 
Indians were taught to read and write English and some 
were even sent to Harvard to be trained in theology. As 
John Eliot said ; "The Indians must become men, that is, 
they must be civilized before they can become Christians. "^^^ 
But the civilizing of the Indians seemed almost a hopeless 
task. Talvj realized it was hard to point out a cause for this. 
There was no justice in saying that they were incapable of civ- 
ilization and culture, at least as far as innate traits of character 
were concerned. It is true that Roger Williams, after having 
loved the Indians, grew to hate them, and applied to them the 
terms envious, revengeful, treacherous, and deceitful. But 
Talvj added this in her note, "Truly his judgment in this 
respect changed only after the influence of the whites, espe- 
cially their liquor, had ruined the Indians." ^^® It would seem 
that the advent of the white man was as a breath of poison to 
the Indians. Nothing in the culture and civilized life of the 
whites attracted the savages but the cultivation of the fields. 
Double gain alone seemed to move them. In order to ex- 
plain this attitude as well as to offer an apology for her 
lengthy discussion of the Indians Talvj said : "If we have 

125 Colonisation von Neu England, p. 424. 
1216 Ibidem, p. 416. 

— 99 — 

I'-vJ '"3— 

been too minute for many readers in recounting a condition 
of the Indians whose meager traces seem scarcely to warrant 
it a place in history, we would offer the excuse that we believed 
we could answer the seemingly unanswerable assertion, that 
the Indians were incapable of civilization. We believed this 
could be done by a simple presentation of certain remark- 
able accomplishments of a few individuals during the short 
period of twenty-five years. The assertion in question arose 
during the eighteenth century and the present age gladly re- 
peats it. It is certain that from Eliot's time to the present 
not a single earnest effort was made to elevate the condition 
of the savages. The demoralized tribes of the east, sunken 
almost into a state of bestiality, no longer afford an oppor- 
tunity for such effort. But the numerous tribes of the west, 
wild, barbaric, and degenerated by the influence of self-seek- 
ing, bartering or arrogant whites, offer a rich field to the 
missionaries of the Christian world. These Indians are not 
yet brutalized. The force of love can reclaim them."^-'^ 

Another evidence that the history is cultural is the part 
the "Volk' plays throughout. Again and again we are brought 
to realize the importance of this "Volksgeist.' This is brought 
out very definitely in the account of the movement toward 
democracy within the colony. The movement itself is as 
subtle and intangible as this popular spirit which so many 
have tried to define without success. But despite its subtlety 
and intangibility it contains the germ of freedom which later 
grew into the American Revolution. The Germans, more than 
all other nations, seemed to appreciate the power of this 
"Volksgeist"; we may not say that they laid an undue em- 
phasis upon it when we look at present day Germany and 
consider that the force which made it what it is was born 
from the same "Volksgeist". Besides this term, she uses 
such expressions as "Volksgunst", "Grimm des Volkes", Her- 
zen des Volkes". "Volksaberglauben" and others. All of 
these are terms found in cutural histories, but represent as 
well circumstances of unbounded significance to the political 
and industrial development of a country. The word "Volks- 

127 Colonisation von Neu England, p. 430. 

— 100 — 

geist" in particular has been interpreted by the enthusiastic 
American as meaning "sovereign will of the people", and too 
often, also has become the mere slogan of the demagogue. 
Her view of the sovereign will of the people stood in rather 
bold opposition to Bancroft's, but was, I believe, the deeper 
and clearer interpretation of a German in such matters. She 
said, "The sovereign will of the people is seldom anything 
else than the blind feeling of an ignorant and passionate mob." 
^2® Bancroft, on the other hand, looked upon it almost as upon 
something sacred. However, Talvj's viewpoint did not pre- 
vent her seeing in the very passion of the mob the germs of 
democracy and freedom. It was merely that she would handle 
this passion in a more careful way, so that it might not be- 
come a rebellion. 

Still another chapter in her history which reads like a 
chapter in a cultural history is the last entitled, "The tone 
and spirit of the colonies." It is a chapter so worth the 
reading that a brief summary of it may not seem out of 
place — The pestilence of the body which prevailed was not 
so deadly as the diseased spirit of the people which led to 
the saying that the devil in person was in their midst. The 
belief in witchcraft seized the people like a convulsion. Neither 
the advance of science nor the revelation of the reformation 
had allayed the idea of a living personal devil. Becker and 
Thomasius in Germany had not yet brought forth victorious 
weapons against this belief. When the Puritans left England, 
superstition was at its height, and certainly life in the Ameri- 
can wilderness with its accompanying terrors and dangers did 
not ofifer any cultural conditions which might remove these 
superstitions. Superstitious fancies rather found nourish- 
m.ent on every hand. God was angry and heaven had to be 
appeased, and this could be accomplished only through prayer, 
fasting, and penance. When, however, in an ecstatic moment 
of prayer, one or another seemed by his gestures and actions 
to be beside himself, he was immediately considered to be 
under the influence of the devil'. 

At one time, Talvj tells us, there existed in the colonies, 

128 Colonisation von Neu England, p. 453. 

— 101 — 

a veritable mad-house where for days the 'possessed' raved and 
howled. The whole village was thrown into the most intense 
excitement and assembled to witness the work of the devil. 
As prayers and fasting availed nothing, a frightful state of 
affairs ensued. Superstition made it possible to give vent to 
personal jealousy and hatred and with this as the real motive 
many innocent victims suffered tortures and even death. 
These persecutions were enough to drive the accused mad 
and so tliey really seemed to justify the accusation. Talvj's 
recital of the imprisonments, trials, and punishments is most 
vivid and impressive, but at the same time it may be said 
that her treatment of the situation is that of the dispassionate 
scientist. Most historians either omit the portrayal of this 
condition of affairs, or, if they discuss it, make only super- 
ficial observations. But it ought not to be ignored for, better 
than anything else, this outbreak of religious perversion ex- 
plains many extraordinary events and movements in the early 
history of America, as well as in our present time. 

As may have been gathered from even the brief remarks 
which have been made, the heaviness of her style might offer 
a basis for criticism ; and, indeed, the North American Review 
did point this out as a defect. The justification of her solid 
and weighty prose seems to me, however, to be plain; for her 
style is an inevitable consequence both of the purpose of his- 
torical narration as well as of the point of view of the author. 
One can scarcely expect a history to possess the vigorous 
style so much a necessity of successful v/ritings of fiction. The 
question arises, is the student of history to be amused or in- 
formed? The details which were so largely responsible for 
the criticism were necessary to her development of the subject, 
for as she said, ''As in physical so in political bodies, little 
things have developed to maturity quite as remarkably, as 
great things." ^'^ 

The North American Review considered both the German 
language and the subject matter which she chose rather too 
unwieldy for the production of an attractive history. In com- 
paring her style with Bancroft's it said, "Talvj's style is not 

129 Colonisation von Neu England, Introduction xiv. 

— 102 — 

more vivacious or epigrammatic than that of her country- 
men in general; it is somewhat tedious, hardly fresh enough, 
either of fact or disquisition to justify its length for an Am- 
erican reader. Bancroft's success is due to a vigorous imagin- 
ation and a crisp nervous style. It reveals startling and bril- 
liant pictures, being a work of genius rather than laborious 
detail." ^^° In the face of the critic's national bias and his 
limited knowledge of German, such a criticism hardly seems 
fair ; nor was it voiced by the nation for whom she wrote. In 
a Biicherschau for 1851 the following statement gives evidence 
of the very favorable reception of her history in Germany: 
"Her style is simple, but vivid and warm, and where the 
circumstance demands, not without force and emphasis." But 
that not all American critics took the attitude of the North 
American Review is shown by the following extract from a 
clipping of one of the contemporary New York papers : "The 
style of this history is always clear and forcible, and men 
and things are brought into distinct relief. Without exagger- 
ating the Puritans, it does them justice, and while treatmg 
them in a friendly and sympathetic spirit, it betrays no sense 
of hereditary obligation to set their virtues too strongly forth. 
The author has examined what she saw with German in- 
dustry and thoroughness. Not only ought it be read bv Ger- 
mans in Germany but also the Germans here, and all the 
Americans who can read German." 

Talvj's own judgments, whenever they occur, are clear, 
pointed, reasonable, and sound. While often diametrically 
opposed to those of American historians, they are never an- 
tagonistic in temper. She has always stood firmly upon her 
own convictions, and given expression to them in the most 
direct manner. In 1852 William Hazlitt, recognizing how 
great a store house of historical information this work was, 
edited a translation of it into the English language. The 
translation does not by any means do the original justice, as 
can readily be inferred from the following article found in 
the International Magazine for 1852, "Mrs Robinson who 
left New York several months ago to visit her relations in 

^^^ North American Review, vol. Ixix. 

— 103 — 

Germany writes from Berlin to the Athenaeum under date of 
Feb. 2, 'A work appeared in London last summer with the 
following title: Talvj's History of the Colonization of Am- 
erica, edited by Wm. Hazlitt in two volumes. It seems proper 
to state that the original work was written under favorable 
circumstances in Germany and published in Germany. It 
treated only of the colonization of New England and that 
only stood on its title page. The above English publication, 
therefore, is a mere translation, and it was made without the 
consent or knowledge of the author. The very title is a 
misnomer; all references to authorities are omitted; and the 
whole work teems with errors, not only of the press, but 
also of translation, — the latter such as could have been made 
by no person well acquainted with the German and English 
tongues. For the work in this form, therefore, the author 
can be in no sense whatever responsible." ^^^ 

This is exceedingly unfortunate, for the original is probab- 
ly one of the best source books of early Colonial history in 
American literature to-day. 


Miscellaneous Essays. 

With a view, probably, of diffusing among her German 
countrymen a knowledge of America that would otherwise 
have been possessed only by the cultivated, Talvj wrote articles 
for several of the most popular German magazines of the 
time, giving interesting bits of description of places she vis- 
ited, as well as charming pictures of early American life. In 
one of these papers, which will be considered at some length 
later, we have, so far as I have been able to discover, the only 
direct expression of her views regarding slavery. In a con- 
tribution to the North American Review she had described 
Russian slavery, but in this paper she expressed her 
view regarding the curse of slavery to America. With the 
same desire to awaken in America an interest in Europe, be- 
cause only in mutual exchange of interests did she feel that 

'^^'^ International Monthly Magazine, vol. v, p. 556, 1852. 

— 104 — 

the highest development of either was possible, she wrote for 
several of the leading American magazines of the time; among 
them, besides the aforem.entioned North American Review, 
Putnam's, Sargent's and the Atlantic Monthly. Not only is 
the versatility of the writer shown in. the wide scope of sub- 
jects treated, but the German idea of universality, so definite 
a purpose of her life, is also brought out by her efifort to com- 
bine German and American culture. 

For the most part I shall touch upon these articles very 
briefly. Of the eight which appeared in the American maga- 
zines, all, with the exception of the one printed in Sargent's, 
are accessible to any who may care to read them. Of Sargenfs 
Magazine, however, only six issues were published between 
the years 1843 and 1846; and after a long search I found in 
the Chicago Public Library the number which contained Talvj's 
article on "Goethe's Loves", a subject of obvious interest. 
Several of the longer essays which appeared in the North 
American Revietv and Biblical Repository appeared in book 
form later, and have already been discussed. Four of the 
seven dealt with Popular Poetry of the Teutonic, Slavic, 
Spanish, and French nations respectively and are reserved for 
discussion in the chapter on Popular Poetry, which furnishes 
a comprehensive view of all her work upon that subject. The 
other three articles were : "The Household of Charlemagne" 
in the North American Reviezv for 1855 ; "Russian Slavery" 
in the North American Review for 1856; and "Dr. Faustus" 
in the Atlantic Monthly for 1858. 

"The Household of Charlemagne" was called forth by 
a review of two German histories expressive of the first zeal 
on the part of national historians to clear up the comparative 
darkness of their early history. Recognizing the peculiar 
charm of a close observation of the private life and individual 
habits of a truly great man, Talvj confined her remarks en- 
tirely to the private life of Charlemagne, and this she presented 
in an exceedingly interesting manner. So far as I know, 
there is no other similar discussion in the English language 
of this phase of the great monarch's life. Its chief value lay 
in the fact that it stripped off, partially, the cloak of myth 

— 105 — 

and legend in which many were wont to cbthe this monumental 
figure of history. 

There is no doubt that the article on "Russian Slavery" 
was called forth by the situation in the United States. As 
will be seen later in this chapter, Talvj did not come out 
as a militant abolitionist, although her views as expressed in 
one of her papers indicate that she was one of its most bit- 
ter opponents. That she made a thorough investigation 
of the question of servitude, both white and black, 
is evidenced throughout both articles. While she did not 
draw parallels between Russian and American slavery, for 
each in itself was an independent institution, a burning hatred 
for its effects and principles pervaded the article. In the 
main it was a history of the development of serfdom in 
Russia, pointing out how liberty among the working classes 
diminished little by little until even the mere remnant of it 
disappeared. She concluded with the only reference to negro 
slavery throughout the Vv-hole discussion, in expressing her 
opinion that Russian slavery was superior to negro slavery, 
since even under its worst iniquities moral relations were 
more respected. 

The "Dr. Faustus, " article, which appeared in 1858, set 
forth the legend of Faust as well as its historical background. 
An interest in Germany and its culture had been growing con- 
stantly since 1840. Goethe had at once appealed to the Amer- 
icans as one of the foremost of writers and thinkers, and 
his "Faust" was arousing the greatest enthusiasm, so that this 
article met a demand which was felt if not voiced. 

Turning now to Talvj 's German magazine articles, we find 
them appearing as follows: 1845, "Aus der Geschichte der 
ersten Ansiedelungen in den Vereinigten Staaten", Raumers 
Taschenhuch ; 1856, " Ausflug nach Virginien, "Westermanns 
Monatshefte; 1858, "Anna Louisa Karschin," Westermanns; 
1860, "Die weissen Berge von Neu Hampshire", Aus der 
Fremde; 1860, "Die Shaker," Westermanns; 1861, "Die Falle 
des Ottawas", Westermanns; 1861, "Deutsche Schrifstellerin- 
nen bis vor 100 Jahren," Raumers Taschenhuch; 1869, "Die 
Kosaken und ihre historischen Lieder," Westermanns. 

— 106 -^ 

' The first of these articles may be somewhat specifically 
termed a critical biography of Captain John Smith, whose 
name and story have become a veritable national legend. It 
was a forerunner of her history of New England, which ap- 
peared in 1847, and bore the same stamp of thorough investi- 
gation of original sources. The history of Virginia could 
not be better given anywhere. The romantic element in the 
settlement of the old Dominion colony was brought out with 
remarkable skill. No new and startling facts appeared, but 
the old were presented with such a novel and instinctive 
grasp of causal sequence and significant interrelation, that 
they were lighted up by a remarkable vividness and interest 
and the reader was scarcely conscious of reading history as 
such. Naturally, in a work of this sort, her love of investiga- 
tion of the Indian and his history found much satisfaction, 
for the name of John Smith is inseparably associated with 
that of the Indian King of Virginia, Powhatan, and his heroic 
daughter, Pocahontas, to whose intervention his life is so 
customarily ascribed. To Germany, then intensely interested 
in x\merica and things American, this bit of early history 
must have been most welcome. For the student of American 
history today it contains valuable source material. 

The next article, "Ausflug nach Virginien," was perhaps 
the most interesting and most valuable of them all. It was 
characteristic of the woman that her views regarding slavery, 
an institution which she hated with all her strength, should 
have made their first modest, if positive appearance, in a 
literary work so retired from American notice as a bit of 
travel description in a German magazine, and in the German 
language. She was always keenly interested in political and 
social situations both in Germany and America, but never 
felt that the expression of opinion upon them, with the im- 
mediate purpose of reform, was becoming to a woman. It 
is therefore only by a scrupulous study of her works that we 
find, here and there, concealed under cover of novel or history, 
certain of her expressions of sentiment that, from their force, 
were intrinsically worthy of broadcast publication. 

With impartial and fearless judgment she struck at the 

— 107 — 

cause of conditions in the United States in the middle of the 
nineteenth century. As she was not a native of either north 
or south, and as she loved her adopted country deeply and 
truly, her view was clear and unobstructed by prejudice. 
"A dark cloud hangs over the inner conditions of this land," 
she said. "The haughty presumption and blinded selfishness 
of the South have conjured forth this cloud; the narrow greed 
for money of the North and the cowardly fear of the specter 
of disruption of the Union have inactively watched it arise 
without making any plans for protection. And now it hangs 
over our heads black and foreboding, threatening to break 
every minute. It is incomprehensible how carelessly and 
indifferently the North has looked upon the presumption of 
the South for years." ^"^ Opposed to slavery as she was, she 
did not approve the methods of some of the abolitionists, as 
is evidenced by her remark, "offended by the passionate cry 
of rage of the abolitionist party and aroused by their demands 
for an im.mediate and unconditional surrender of all their 
property rights, they began to view 'our own perculiar insti- 
tution' of slavery from another viewpoint; indeed, they began 
to nurse and pamper it." ^^^ Such extremists tried to set up 
the argument that the slave could appreciate freedom only 
through having once been a slave, just as the Spartans taught 
the Helots to appreciate the vices of drunkenness by making 
them all drunk. Again, the Christians of the South attempted 
to defend slavery on a religious basis, saying that it was the 
only means of bringing these ignorant untaught Africans into 
the light of the gospels. This, as Talvj commented, was a 
horrible mockery, when one considered that legal marriage was 
forbidden to negroes in certain parts of the South, and that in 
South Carolina, at least, the laws forbade them to read the 
Bible for themselves. She pointed out that a view not uncom- 
monly given utterance, that slavery was a natural condition of 
the laborer, and freedom, of the owner of the land, was indica- 
tive of a terrible state of affairs in a country based on princi- 
ples of democracy. The disgraceful assault upon Sumner, the 

Westermann's Monathefte, Oct. 1856— Mch. 1857, p. 376. 
^^^Westermann's Oct. 1856— Mch. 1857, p. 377. 

— 108 — 

senator from Massachusetts, by Brooks, the senator from South 
Carolina, following Sumner's eloquent attack upon the Kansas 
affair and Butler's part in it, was, in her estimation, one of 
the chief of the incidents which finally awakened the North 
to action. The half-hearted concern of the free states in 
regard to slavery, as well as to the presumption of the South, 
could in no wise find an excuse in her eyes. That the chains 
of the cursed institution had stifled progress was a fact patent 
on every hand as she travelled through Virginia; yet slavery 
found its defenders and advocates. Ohio, Illinois, Michi- 
gan, and Wisconsin had, from a cultural standpoint, long 
since outstripped the southern states. The most primitive 
methods of travel were still in use in the South ; bridges across 
streams, if there were any at all, consisted of tree trunks ; the 
houses and hotels were crude and lacking in ordinary com- 
forts; nature alone seemed at its best. "Like a destructive 
mildew slavery lay upon the land's success; like a treacher- 
ous cancer it gnawed upon its otherwise healthy body."^^^ To 
her this blight was no longer a question of politics, but one 
of Christianity and humanity. Yet these sentiments, partisan 
and heartfelt as they were, were interwoven with admirable 
literary skill into what purported to be a purely descriptive 

Interested as she was in America and its development, she 
could not see merely the external conditions and objects which 
came in turn to her notice as she traveled from place to place. 
When in Washington she did not fail to attend meetings of 
the Senate ; and her descriptions of the more important mem- 
bers of that body must have been most interesting to her 
German readers. Nineteen years before .this, at a itimd! 
when some of America's greatest orators were at their height, 
she had attended sessions of the same deliberative assembly, 
to hear very different discussions, for then the tariff, the 
national finances, and the right of nullification were prob- 
lems which called forth bursts of oratory and eloquence. Now 
for the most part, the higher flights of oratory were lacking, 
but the eloquence called forth by the vital questions of right 

13* Westermann's, 1856—57, p. 637. 

— 109 — 

and wrong was deep and sincere, and in. her mind greater 
than the pohshed speech of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. 
The men who debated these questions were greater statesmen 
than the men of nineteen years before. 

Impartial, unbiased writers, such as she, were needed in 
America at this time more than ever, and as suggested, it 
was America's misfortune that Talvj modestly held her views 
so completely in the background. 

A second biography in this group was that of Anna 
Louise Karschin, a victim of unfortunate circumstances who 
produced verses which received the commendation of Lessing. 
The career of this woman afforded one of the most remarkable 
and characteristic pictures of the times, and a rather extended 
treatm.ent of the life of her mother, which Talvj included, 
justified itself in that it afforded a true portrait of a middle 
class character of the times. This 'Natur-Dichterin', the 'Ger- 
man Sapho', as Sulzer called her, could only be criticised justly 
in the light of her time and her environment. Talvj did not 
in any way attempt to exaggerate the general estimate placed 
upon her worth, and I feel convinced that the subject appealed 
to her less from the standpoint of the woman and her genius 
than as affording an excellent opportunity to mirror the life 
of the first and second quarters of the eighteenth century. 
Nevertheless, the character of the woman was presented in 
a most vivid, interesting, and compassionate manner. 

In her article upon the "White Mountains of New Hamp- 
shire", Talvj gave some very interesting descriptions of pro- 
vinical life as well as of scenery, and showed how the hard, 
unyielding granite mountains were reflected in the narrow 
conservatism of the inhabitants of this state. 

A Sunday with the Shakers at Hancock, Pennsylvania, 
formed the basis for an interesting sketch of the rather fan- 
atic and intellectually stultifying belief then so dominant in 
certain parts of Pennsylvania. She seemed to have the 
knack of describing just those details which added to the 
realism and interest of situations and conditions. 

Her article on "Die Falle des Ottawas" again gave her 
opportunity to satisfy her inclination toward historical nar- 

— 110 — 

rative; she dealt for the once not with the history of Am- 
erican colonization, but rather with a phase of the struggle 
between the English and French. 

Quite naturally she was interested in the German women 
who had previously contribuated to literature. The article on 
"Germany's Women Authors up to a Century Ago" was 
replete with much valuable information. Except in choice of 
material and facts, however, very little chance was given for 
original judgment in this paper. 

As late as 1869, a year before her death, she once more 
found expression for her life-long interest in popular poetry in 
an essay entitled, "Die Kosaken und ihre historischen Lieder." 
In all of her work in the field of folk-song she showed the 
keenest appreciation and sympathy with the natural birth and 
unconscious development of poetry. While the interests of 
her life were varied and her efforts were invariably successful, 
her one supreme concern was still the study of popular poetry 
and its bearing on the culture of civilization. This last article, 
unimportant as it was, would have completed the cycle of 
activity in the study of the ballad and related forms which 
she had begun forty-four years before with the work on Ser- 
vian folk-lore, and would thus have formed the most appro- 
priate close of a life dedicated chiefly to that subject. 

The variety of material dealt with in these magazine arti- 
cles is a tacit witness to the wide interests of Talvj and the 
comprehensive scope of her mind. She never manufactured 
literature, but wrote for her love of expression and investiga- 
tion. This love for the work left an invariable mark upon 
the style of her production : an intimacy which attracted Ger- 
mans and Am.ericans alike. 

One point of great interest, — probably of even greater in- 
terest to her American than her German readers, — was her 
detailed explanation of many names of places, rivers, and 
houses — names which at this remote period of time frequently 
seem to us so extremely odd as to defy explanation. All too 
often nowadays, if we cannot find an explanation for a name, 
we disregard all possibility of legendary or real sentiment 
which may have been attached to the name, and manufacture 

— Ill — 

a new name or appropriate one from another country. Yet 
a study of original names is tantamount to a study of history, 
for invariably, as Talvj often unconsciously demonstrated, 
the name is intimately connected with some bit of local 
or personal history. In the early years of this country 
personal element played an important role in the development 
of our political as well as our cultural history. It was by 
means of little details such as these, that she succeeded in 
making her papers very readable as well as valuable sources 
of information. The American need not dread to read her 
German articles, for the subject matter and her method of 
treatment have given them an incisive briskness which Am- 
ericans claim to be lacking in ordinary German prose. Un- 
fortunately the German articles are not accessible for general 
reading. However, she has drawn such splendid pictures of 
American life in the earlier years of the republic, in her book 
called "The Exiles', that a translation of the magazine articles 
is not warranted. The question of slavery is settled forever, 
and excellent and sound as her views of this vital question 
are, they fill their place in the literature on the subject in 
their original German form. 

Chapter VII. 

A Study of the Ossian Question zvith especial emphasis on 

Macpherson's Ossian. 

At the time when the cry "Back to Nature"' was resound- 
ing through all Europe, when artificiality was giving way to 
spontaneity, when the emotions were assuming their place as 
a guide to right living, when the poetry of primitive peoples 
was being studied as a means to the revivifying of formal 
literature, when the vague and sentimental deism of Rousseau 
was swaying the minds of many, James Macpherson startled 
the literary world with his songs of Ossian. An interest in 
the Scottish Highlanders was already well established, for they 
seemed the exemplars of a natural mode of existence, unre- 
strained and unaffected by an artificial civilization. They 
were still children of nature, and a wild nature at that. In 

— 112 — 

order better to understand the situation that gave rise to Talvj's 
discussion, it will be well to give a brief survey of the so-called 
Ossian question, which has been more or less actively dis- 
cussel and disputed for more than a century. 

In 1759, when James Macpherson was at the Spa of Mof- 
fat in the capacity of a traveling tutor, he struck up an ac- 
quaintance with the author John Home. When Home ex- 
pressed an interest in Highland poetry, Macpherson told him 
that he possessed several specimens of this traditionary poetry. 
Not knowing a word of Gaelic, Home suggested that Mac- 
pherson choose one poem and turn it into English prose. 
Macpherson reluctantly consented, and chose for translation 
the "Death of Oscar" and several smaller poems. The de- 
lighted Home, showed them to several learned friends, and 
finally gave them to Dr. Hugh Blair, a famous theologian and 
literary critic. The latter, becoming enthusiastic, sent for 
Macpherson and begging him to translate all he had in 
his possession. Macpherson refused, saying that he could 
not do justice to the spirit of the poems and that he 
feared an unfavorable reception of them. Finally Blair 
prevailed upon him, and Macpherson translated some 
sixteen pieces. These were published in Edinburgh in 
1760 under the title Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected 
in the Highlands of Scotland and translated from the Gaelic 
or Erse Language. Blair wrote the preface. The book was 
immediately successful. David Hume, Horace Walpole, Wil- 
liam Shenstone, and Thomas Gray were all enthusiastic and 
eagerly demanded further details of Gaelic poetry. Blair was 
convinced that an old epic composed by Ossian, the blind son of 
Fingal, lay hidden somewhere, and wrote to London proposing 
that a subscription be raised to encourage Macpherson to 
make a search for it. Macpherson at first shrank from the 
proposed task, but in the end he could not resist Blair's zeal 
and enthusiasm, and when £100 was raised to defray expenses 
he accepted the commission. He knew what he was expected 
to find. In September of 1760 he began his journey, going 
through the shires of Perth and Argyle to Inverness, thence 
to Skye and the Hebrides, while later he extended his inves- 

— 113 — 

ligations to the coast of Argyleshire and the Island of Mull; 
picking up Mss. here and there, and committing to paper some 
oral recitations. In 1761 he returned to Edinburgh and, set- 
tling near Blair, began to translate. Ten months later his book, 
Fingal, appeared. Unfortunately, his Mss. as well as the 
copies of songs taken from oral recitation disappeared entirely, 
so that his own word, to which his personal morals did not 
give a very redoubtable backing, remained the only testa- 
ment to the genuiness of his sources. His reference to what 
he had found was always ambiguous. Johnson, a member of 
the East India Company, and others urged him to strengthen 
his assertions by a publication of the originals, but in vain. 
Fear that a comparison would reveal the forged nature of 
much of his so-called translations, was the verdict of ninety- 
nine out of a hundred men. Suspicion as to their authenticity 
was fanned into a flame, and fierce disputes arose, in the course 
of which Samuel Johnson almost came to blows with Mac- 
pherson. Walpole's summary of the quarrel was that Mac- 
pherson was a bully and Johnson a brute. Hume, who at the 
beginning was one of the most ardent believers in Macpher- 
son, changed his attitude to one of equally ardent condemnation. 
While Macpherson is still believed to be an impostor, Eng- 
land does not now take Dr. Johnson's extreme view that 
every one of the so-called poems of Ossian was forged. That 
there was some genuine Gaelic ballad poetry was proved by the 
Highland Society of Edinburgh which sent a commission, in 
1797, to inquire into the nature and authenticity of Ossianic 
literature. The result of this investigation was not very satis- 
factory for, as published in 1805, they reached the general 
conclusion that Ossian poetry of an impressive and striking 
character was to be found generally and in great abundance 
in the Highlands, but thus far no one had unearthed a poem 
similar in -title or tenor to Macpherson's publication. It 
was impossible, the report decided, to determine how far 
Macpherson had taken liberties in supplying connections and 
adding to or shortening certain incidents, refining language, etc. 
Subsequent researches by Scottish antiquaries have had little 
better success. One manuscript of consequence was found, 

— 114 — 

The Dean of Lismore's Book, which was dated 1512 to 1529. 
This dispute over the authenticity of Ossian certainly had one 
great result in that it led directly to researches into the antiqui- 
ties of the Kelts, Teutons, and Slavs. 

So much, then, for a brief survey of the situation in Eng- 
land. In no land was Ossian greeted with such general and 
unbounded enthusiasm as in Germany. Wilhelm Scherer said, 
"Addison had already directed attention to the English ballad 
poetry and Klopstock, Gleim, and others had profited by his 
example. Bishop Percy's collection of English ballads was, 
therefore, received with general rapture in Germany, and the 
sentimental heroic poetry of Celtic origin, which Macpherson 
published under the name of Ossian was greeted with enthusi- 
astic applause by a race of poets full of sentiment and war-like 
sympathies." ^^^ There were two reasons for this enthus- 
iastic reception. In the first place, it had long been the 
belief that the Celtic and Germanic nations had one and the 
same origin, the Celtic, perhaps, being the more ancient; Os- 
sian then was the long hoped for German Homer. In the 
second place, it seemed as if this ancient bard was truly 
the voice of nature, the representation of primitive man 
unadorned. Up to this time all that poetic feeling had to 
feed upon and to satisfy its longings, — aside from the classics, 
of course, — was the works of such writers as Boileau and 
Batteux. Two years before, in 1762, an incomplete transla- 
lation of Shakespeare had come tO' Germany and had com- 
manded immediate attention. It is a matter of small wonder, 
then, that when Ossian appeared in Geram.ny in 1764, it 
received such an enthusiastic welcome, for it meant satisfaction 
for a long felt want. 

The number of writers whose productions assumed an 
Ossianic hue, or the number of discussions and translations 
of Macpherson's work, would indicate the extent of the new 
Celtic interest. Translation folowed translation, Talvj tells 
us in her introduction ; Denis, Harold, Petersen, Rhode, Schu- 
bert, Jung, Huber, StoUberg, all claimed German origin for 

135 Scherer, A History of German Literature, translated by C ony- 
beare, vol. ii, p. 56. 

— 115 — 

this bard of nature. Kiopstock, Herder, and Goethe came 
forward as enthusiasts for him ; indeed "the best and the no- 
blest of the nation called him their favorite poet." Klopstock 
and Herder never doubted the authenticity of the poems. 
Herder, the father of the 'Volkspoesie' movement in Ger- 
many, based many of his theories in regard to popular poetry 
upon the songs of Ossian. He spoke of him as the "man I have 
sought." Klopstock in his enthusiasm cried out, "Thou, too, 
Ossian, wert swallowed up in oblivion; but thou hast been 
restored to thy position ; behold thee now before us, the equal 
and chalenger of Homer the Greek." ^"^ Goethe, in his first 
glow of appreciation derived great inspiration from the songs 
for his Werthers Leiden, but in his later years, in the light 
of scientific investigation of Germany's own past, which de- 
stroyed the old belief in a m.utual origin of the Celtic and 
Germanic nations, he became thoroughly convinced that these 
songs were not genuine. 

The enthusiasm did not stop in Germany, for Italy, Spain, 
France, and even Poland and Holland had their eras of Os- 
sianic literature. In the meantime the dispute raged blindly in 
England. From the controversy there, the seed of suspicion 
was slowly and surely carried across the waters to the con- 
tinent, and in turn new disputes and investigations arose which 
finally worked against the popularity of Ossian as a piece of 
original literature. Within a short time it was generally 
accepted that Macpherson had not translated the songs of 
Ossian but had cleverly, and, it must be admitted, with con- 
siderable genius, collected and arbitrarily fitted together a 
number of unrelated short fragments. To the whole he had 
imparted the tone and effect of a connected narrative. Mac- 
pherson's great and unpardonable sin, as Talvj saw it, lay not 
in the publication of his Ossian, but in im.posing himself upon 
the public as a translator instead of an author. As the latter, 
considering the tendency of his mind, he might have occupied 
a most honorable and significant position in the history of lit- 
erature, for as Saintsbury said, "The imposture of Mac- 
pherson is more interesting as a matter of tendency than of 
13S Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism, vol. iv. 

— 116 — 

essence. The world wanted romance; it wanted the Celtic 
vague." ^^^ 

During the same year in which Talvj's Die Undchtheit der 
Lieder Ossians und des Macpherson'schen Ossian insbeson- 
dere was published, her Charakteristik der Volkslieder also 
appeared ; whether written earlier or later is of small moment. 
From that part of the Charakteristik dealing with Scottish 
folklore we realize how rich she considered the field of Scot- 
tish poetry. This interest, together with her unquenchable 
thirst for truth, brought into play both the knowledge she 
had gained from a study of the German interpretation of 
the question and from a study of the English. This included 
all the research that had been going on since 1797, as was 
evident from the sources she cited in her discussion. 

In the manner characteristic of her studies in popular 
poetry, Talvj introduced her Ossian discussion by giving her 
readers an historical survey of the primeval period in Scot- 
land, and of Scotland's early relations with Ireland. The 
relation between these countries, she said, became closer by 
intermarriage and education until, as early as the thirteenth 
century, the Irish language changed from a court language 
into a common language among the inhabitants of the Scottish 
lowlands. The Gaelic remained in the mountains and on the 

Following the historical background was a brief resume 
of the quarrel, beginning with Hume's first suspicions aroused 
imm.ediately upon the publication of Ossian in 1760 and 1761, 
Talvj next presented her German readers with arguments 
against the antiquity of Macpherson's Ossianic poetry. She 
admitted the presence of anachronisms in popular poetry, due 
to the fact that it was the product of various times and var- 
ious authors, but never, she declared, could the anachronisms 
of an historical personage who sang of events either immedi- 
ate, recent or contemporary, be justified. The Ossian of the 
third century certainly m.ust have known that his father was 
not Cuchullin's contemporary, for Cuchullin died in the sec- 
ond century. He must have known also that neither in Scot- 

137 Social England, vol. v, p. 262. 

— 117 — 

land nor Ireland were there "castles and moss covered tur- 
rets" ^'^ in the third century. Stone came intO' general use only 
shortly before the English invasion in the twelfth century. 
These and other anachronisms, according tO' Talvj, made it 
seem almost impossible that Macpherson's Ossian should ever 
have been looked upon as possessing historical accuracy. 

Without denying verbal transmission of legend and history, 
Talvj pointed out that the transm.ission of some twenty thou- 
sand lines, together with the main facts in the history of five 
generations, became a second weighty argument against the 
genuineness of the work. 

A third argument was the question of the language itself. 
Some of the greatest Gaelic and Irish scholars before Mac- 
pherson had been unable to interpret the Erse dialect, and 
Macpherson did not profess to be a great scholar. To attempt 
to prove the genuineness of the songs of Ossian by means of 
manuscripts found in recent centuries was to deny the con- 
stant flux of language from one period to another . "Tradi- 
tional folk-songs," said Talvj, "are in this sense comparable to 
ships, which are ever being repaired with new wood, until in 
the end scarcely a single part in them is exactly the same 
as it was originally."^^^ To pick out the original from the 
interpolations was the work of an expert philologist; and 
Macpherson himself said that it was very difficult for him, on 
many occasions, to translate the Gaelic. Macpherson's Os- 
sianic manuscript, what there was of it, was in modern GaeUc, 
and not in the Gaelic of the third century. Furthermore, 
Macpherson's Ossianic manuscripts, when compared with pro- 
ductions of the earliest times, showed clearly that both con- 
tent and form were not what they purported to be. The verse 
of the undisputed MSS. seemed uniformly to consist of fifteen 
to sixteen syllables, with a caesura in the middle, and with the 
first division rhyming with the last ; the verse of Macpherson's 
original songs, however, occurred nowhere in the oldest histor- 
ical Gaelic documents. The variance in content was equally 

i38Talvj, ^wian, p. 48. 
i3» Talvj, Sssian, p. 54. 

— 118 — 

Talvj did not attempt to disprove that Finn remained for 
centuries the central figure of Gaelic legend. "Just as Arthur 
and his round-table for the Britons and later for all the west- 
ern peoples, Dietrich and his heroes for the Germans, Charle- 
magne and his peers for the Franks and Spaniards, Wladimir 
and his 'Bojaren,' Lasar and his 'Woiwoden' for the Russians 
and Servians, Dschanger and his twelve warriors for the Kal- 
mucks, Finn and his followers remained for the Gaels the cen- 
tral point of the great cycle of legend which imbedded it- 
self, with all its peculiarities, in the various localities of the 

The original Irish Ossian documents displayed a language 
which was always simple ; similies and metaphors were not fre- 
quent. The action as well as the language of Macpherson's 
Ossiaii was refined to such an extent that even the superficial 
student of popular legend realized an unnatural nicety. The 
heroes in the original Ossian fragments were quite as noble as 
those of Macpherson, even if they were less shadowy and more 
the creatures of human passions ; the women were quite as 
beautiful and charming, even if less refined and polished. 
The characters of the original bore the stamp of their time. 
"Folklore is often rough and harsh, but it is always fresh, 
direct, sensual, and artistic," said Talvj, and for this very 
reason the sublime and pure speech, the commanding char- 
acter of Macpherson's Ossian argi:ed against its genuineness. 

The Highlanders were a credulous people and intensely 
proud of their nation. This patriotism had blinded them to 
the fact that the home of Ossian was Ireland. There was 
scarcely a song found among the Highlands that did not have 
its original counterpart, written or traditional, somewhere in 
Ireland. In earlier years, it was realized that, from a literary 
viewpoint, Scotland was entirely dependent upon Ireland. 
If a Gael wanted to learn more than warfare, he went to Ire- 
land, where, even amid war and bloodshed science flour- 
ished in the convents and monasteries. After the English 
invasion it is not at all improbable that the Scotch attend- 
ants of the Irish princes carried the songs back to their homes. 

Ko Talvj, Ossian, p. 67. 

— 119 — 

For the sake of argument Talvj granted that Macpherson 
might have possessed some old Erse manuscripts that served 
him as originals. But with this supposition four questions arose 
at once : Were the manuscripts really from a single period of 
antiquity? Was the language Erse? Was it Ossianic poetry? 
Was Macpherson able to decipher it? Nothing in the nature 
of this kind of manuscript was found among his papers. A 
repeated reference, however, was made to a Gaelic manuscript 
in the possession of the family of Clanronald. It was said that 
Macpherson secured this manuscript, but what developed from 
it was not known. All Highland poetical composition of cer- 
tain periods was written in Irish Gaelic. The folksingers 
imitated this as best they could in dialect. The Erse language 
was regarded as a dialect of the Irish-Gaelic. As far as Talvj 
could discover it had never been written or printed prior to 
1754, when a minister by the name of Macfarlane used the 
Erse in a popular appeal. With the Reformation the High- 
land's dependence on Ireland ceased, and in 1684 a Gaelic ver- 
sion of the Psalms was made in Scotland, Latin letters being 
used. And so, if Macpherson possessed old manuscripts these 
would have been Irish-Gaelic. He himself admitted once that 
he could not read an Irish manuscript of the fourteenth cen- 
tury which was shown to him ; yet according to O'Reilly it was 
not unusual for Irish scholars of even slight training to de- 
cipher fourteenth and fifteenth century manuscripts. 

From these arguments against the possibility that Macpher- 
son had been a translator of Gaelic, Talvj proceeded to prove 
that in all probability he was himself the clever author of Ossian. 
Undoubtedly, at first, he had no idea of going so far with the 
work as he did. Choosing the third century as the background 
in which to give his fancy free rein, was a clever method of 
arousing the attention of the public to extraordinary themes. 
Another ingenious stroke of Macpherson's was that he gave to 
all the poems of his first publication an apparent authenticity, 
as for example in the case of his great epic Fingal. This was 
based on the "Song of Magnus the Great." His "Schlacht von 
Lora" was based on "Ergons Landung" etc. In his second 
publication, however, very few if any had any basis of author- 

— 120 — 

ity. The success of the first volume probably made him feel 
that a second would be quite as generally accepted, on the 
reputation of the first, even if he did not take the added pre- 
caution of giving it an authentic basis. 

Literary forgery such as Macpherson's was not at all an 
unheard-of thing in England. Lauder before Macpherson, and 
Chatterton, contemporary with him, were both forgers. The 
former made Latin verses which he gave to the public as the 
original of Milton. The latter composed poems which for a 
time he made the public believe to be productions of the fif- 
teenth century. But, said Talvj, "Such an artistic assertion, such 
hoods, lies, misrepresentations, and unfounded assertions, such 
a hodge-podge of historical events, had never before appeared 
in the history of any land, and this it is which despite all his 
fame as a poetic genius will ever be the constant reproof to 
Macpherson. ""1 

In one very important point Macpherson was not far- 
sighted enough in his cleverness; he left out the element of 
religion almost completely. In all of the Ossianic poetry of 
both Ireland and Scotland there is a great intermixture of 
religious feeling, even of Christian religion ; yet in substitution 
for it he introduced only a species of mythology of the super- 
natural. Whatever critical or general approbation was given 
to this spirit world was a clear tribute to Macpherson's genius, 
for not a hint of it was discernible in the Gaelic folk-songs. 

The history of how, in the face of an unceasing insistence 
upon the publication of the original documents, Macpherson 
still delayed, making excuse after excuse until finally, when he 
did present them, the critics felt firmly convinced that they were 
Gaelic translations of his own English, and poor translations at 
that, is known to all who followed this question with any de- 
gree of thoroughness. Sir Walter Scott, among many others, 
had no doubt whatever that Macpherson himself had trans- 
lated his own English, making good use of his innate feeling 
for the form and style of the old Scotch bards. "I am com- 
pelled to admit," he said, "that incalculably the greater part 
of the English Ossian must be ascribed to Macpherson him- 

"1 Talvj, Ossian, p. 110. 

— 121 — 

self, and that the whole introduction, the notes, etc., are an ab- 
solute tissue of forgeries.""- "In the translation of Homer," 

he again remarked, "he lost his advantage A tartan 

plaid did not fit his old Greek friend.""^ The success of his 
Ossian misled him into believing that the could master the 
style of Homer ; he was a man whom talent led astray. 

In closing her discussion, Talvj presented a concise ac- 
count of Gaelic folklore in Scotland in her own time. She 
pointed out that, as such, it was fast disappearing, and unless 
the most strenuous effort were made to preserve what frag- 
ments were yet available, this treasure of song and poetry 
would be irrevocably lost like the great mass of primitive 
folklore had been. 

This, then, was the contribution which Talvj made to the 
discussion concerning the authenticity of Macpherson's Ossian. 
No one in England or Germany was more qualified to end the 
dispute ; for since the time of Herder no scholar had possessed 
so comprehensive and deep a knowledge of folksong as she, 
not even Wilhelm Grimm. The disputes in Great Britain had 
become mere sectional squabbles with England on one side, en- 
tirely ignorant of the nature of the Volkslied, and Scotland on 
the other, entirely carried away by a blind and false patriotism. 
Lacking scientific basis for the arguments, these squabbles be- 
came so petty and involved that their solution seemed almost 
impossible. At this juncture, viewing the whole situation 
calmly and without bias, in the light of the discovery of Ger- 
many's own past, and of the new vision revealed by the old 
Norse folklore and, what is even more significant, in the light 
of the knowledge which she herself had brought before the 
world by unearthing the very springs of a living poetry among 
the Slavic nations, Talvj took up the discussion. The result 
of her work was a triumph not only for her but for truth, for 
the disputes in both England and Germany came to an end. 
It is only within very recent years that Saunders and Smart 
have again taken up the question. But a careful investigation 
of their work merely reveals the fact that as early as 1840 

"2 Lockhart, Life of Scott. 
1*3 Talvj, Ossian, p. 110. 

_ 122 — 

Talvj had access to practically all of the material which is to 
be obtained even at the present day ; and she used it more 

Chapter VIII. 

Her Novels. 

In the early part of the eighteenth century questions of 
the relation of life to moral standards became objects of pop- 
ular consideration, and a new interest awoke in everyday exist- 
ence. Those who had once attended merely to external cir- 
cumstances in human afifairs came more and more to investi- 
gate the inner thoughts and feelings of man. Out of this 
subjective tendency of the age was evolved a new psychology 
and a new m.orality. In the family, as Richardson showed in 
his Pamela, lay new motivations and new conflicts; and prob- 
lems of the family are a prominent, if not a dominant, factor 
in literature to the present day. The women characters lost 
their stereotyped character and became, according to David 
Swing,^** the white ribbon that binds together the truths gath- 
ered in the fields of science, religion, and politics. This Talvj 
illustrated in her Heloise. 

The tendency to introspection led, as we know, to the 
melancholy romance of passion of which Goethe's Werthers 
Leiden was the foremost example. The whole period is some- 
times characterized as the ' EmpUndsame Werther-Z eitalter' .^*'^ 
This introspection was a marked characteristic in Talvj 's 
novels and short stories, whose common theme was a sen- 
sitive heart brought into conflict with the rough world, and 
frequently overcome by the struggle. This romantic tone was 
maintained even in her last novel, Fiinfzehn Jahre, (1868) in 
which she developed a nature almost antipodally removed from^ 
the realistic creations of the later nineteenth century. Again 
and again, especially in her short stories, her characters were 
embodiments of that vagrant, self-centered romanticism which, 
following its own free inclinations, wandered inevitably into 

1** Modern Eloquence, vol. ix. 
i« Mielke. 

— 123 — ' 

wrong paths. Through the favor of external circumstances 
conjoined often with the pure love of a good woman, they 
were brought back from the very brink of self-destruction into 
the sane, well-ordered atmosphere of practical activity from 
which they had w^andered. This was especially shown in Life's 
Discipline, Bin Bild aiis seiner Zeit, Der Lauf der Welt, and 
others. In Das vergebliche Opfer the development was en- 
tirely subjective, and in every way displayed the influence of 

It is significant that out of eleven productions, generally 
classed as novels, eight were novelets, that form of Ger- 
man narration which, while corresponding in many respects 
to the English short story, in many others stands midway 
between it and the novel. As a literary form it was un- 
doubtedly much better calculated to appeal to the popular taste 
than the German Roman, but whether Talvj consciously adopted 
it for this reason or not, is unknown. At any rate, she was not 
a novel writer in the ordinary sense of the word 'novel' ; while 
as a writer of sketches, especially those with a romantic color- 
ing, she was decidedly successful. The following quotation 
from a New York newspaper of 1851 expresses the sentiment 
I have in mind in regard to her works in this field: "The 
tales of Talvj will not charm the simpering Miss of the board- 
ing school. They will be pronounced uninteresting in the 
drawing room of fashion. But in the domestic circle, where 
intellect is admired and purity is reverenced, where knowledge 
and virtue are sought in the book that is to entertain the family 
group, these truthful tales of the human heart will be more 
than welcomed as guests, will be loved as friends." The names 
of the characters in Talvj 's books will undoubtedly be for- 
gotten by her readers, as will the characters themselves, but 
the moral will continue to exist either as an exarr.ple or as a 
warning. The tragedy of life, as she showed us, lies not w-ithin 
the realm of the tangible, but rather within that of the spirit. 
Jealousy played an important part in her representations of 
life, sometimes prevailing, sometimes vanquished by reason 
and by the steadfastness of a woman's devotion, — the latter a 
prominent element in almost all of her works of this nature. 

— 124 — 

All of her novels were written in German ; four, at least, 
have been translated into English. The fact that Heloise 
passed through three English editions in one year testified 
strongly to the general acceptance of her work by American 
readers. Die Auswanderer also had several English editions, 
appearing first under the title of l^Jie Exiles, and later as 
Woodhill. It would of course have been preposterous to ex- 
pect that her works, psychological as they were, should attain 
great popularity; and if popularity be measured by circu- 
lation, her novels fell far short of it. Although lacking a wide 
appeal, they possess a depth and truth in the portrayal of char- 
acters and situations which should insure for them a lasting 
existence in literature. One of the New York papers in 
speaking of her works said, "They possess a classic simplicity 
of style and clearness, and of refinement of presentation. They 
are true pearls of literature in the field of novel writing." ^*^ 

Her novels fall into four divisions. In the first are six 
short tales which her daughter, Mary, published after Talvj's 
death, under the title of Gesammelte Novellen and two, Maria 
Barcoczy and Kurmark und Kaukasus, which I was unable to 
find. The second division is represented by Heloise, the third 
by Piinfsehn Jahre and the fourth by her most important novel, 
Die Ausivanderer. I shall discuss them in this order, with 
especial emphasis on the last. 

The tales contained in the book, Gesammelte Novellen, repre- 
sented, in a certain measure, the beginning and the end of a long 
literary career. Nearly a half century elapsed between the first 
story, "Die Rache," written in 1820, and the last, "Ein Bild 
aus seiner Zeit," written in 1868. The author herself realized 
that several of the earlier ones bore, too plainly, the stamp of 
youth, and intended to reconstruct them ; but death overtook 
her before she accomplished this task. 

The characters, as Talvj herself said, are "not ideal charac- 
ters, such as the heart creates out of immature poetic fancy ; 
they are human beings whom I portray — truly human in their 
sins and their virtues. The reader will seldom wonder about 

I*'' New Yorker Belletristisches Journal. 

— 125 — 

them, but perhaps he will sympathize with them and love them. 
It is not the force of an exterior fate which will attract the 
reader's attention for a time; their peculiar characteristics, 
their feelings, their reason, their hatred and their love, their 
insight and their deceptions, these traits form the attractive 
features. Not external but internal necessity leads the char- 
acters on to their happiness, or their misery." This last sen- 
tence particularly expresses the whole underlying thought of 
her stories — "in each human breast rests the power over one's 
own destiny." 

Of all her novels Die Aiisivanderer was perhaps of greatest 
interest to her American readers, because it dealt with Amer- 
ica and Americans. Before entering upon a discussion it may 
be well to consider briefly certain works of another author 
which were similar in nature to Talvj's Die Aiiszmndercr. As 
early as 1828 Charles Sealsfield saw the influence of European 
politics upon Anierica and expressed this in The Americans as 
They Are. During the year 1823 he made an extended trip 
through the southern and western parts of the United States. 
In 1824 he was active in Jackson's compaign for the presidency ; 
and in 1825 he took part in the Harrisburg convention, whose 
proceedings he later depicted vividly. In 1825 he made another 
trip south, passing through parts of Illinois and Indiana on his 
way to New Orleans. The two books which were the outgrowth 
of this tour, the one just mentioned and Lebensbildcr in dcr 
westlichen Hemisphdre, are exceedingly valuable as cultural- 
historical studies.^*^ His works are among the few American 
historical novels that are true to life, because written by one 
unrestrained by prejudice or political or social connection. He 
gave a photograph of Americanism in all its details, national 
and moral, public and private, spiritual and material, religious 
and political. Until the beginning of the fifties his books were 
eagerly read. With the establishment of the Republican party 
a great change in attitude toward the past swept over the whole 

"^Sealsfield was the founder of a school of romance in German 
literature, known as the "Exotische Culturroman". This school gave 
great impetus to realism in Germany and may be considered a stepping 
stone to the "Zeitroman" of Gutzkow. See Americana Germania, vol. i. 

— 126 — 

country, and America began to forget her own origin. Now 
the importance of a past cuUure and history is being recognized 
more and more, and these early pictures of Americans and 
American Hfe are being brought forth for reconsideration. 

Just at the time when the poHtical and social change of the 
early fifties began to sweep over the country, we see a rival 
to Sealsfield in Talvj. There are no other novelists of this 
period worthy of being classed with these two writers. Both 
were German, yet both loved America impartially. Franz von 
Loher placed Talvj above Sealsfield, despite a statement that 
Sealsfield was the "greatest American stylist." "No one," said 
Loher, "has ever penetrated so deeply into the real American 
thought and feeling, which contain just as much of the bizarre 
as of the charming." To him Sealsfield's portrayals seem over- 
drawn and clouded in comparison with Talvj 's clear, naive 
truth. This statement is slightly unfair, inasmuch as the sub- 
ject matter is treated from a different viewpoint. Talvj pen- 
etrated into the secret recesses of American thought ; Sealsfield 
observed more superficially, and portrayed what he saw. The 
two supplement each other, and together supply a unique con- 
tribution to American literature. Some other writers on 
phases of this early life are Buckingham, Dwight, Thwaite, 
Trollope, Martineau and Mjargaret Fuller, but none of them 
have given us such vivid pictures as Sealsfield and Talvj. 
Their descriptions are in the nature of im.pressions gained 
through travel, and a reading of them gives one a feeling of 
better acquaintance with his American ancestors, and an insight 
into the existence of forces working for or against a national 
culture. In this Talvj succeeded better than Sealsfield, and 
I would, therefore, place her first in this particular field of 
American literature. 

Let us turn now to a consideration of Die Auswanderer, 
which appeared in 1852. Judged as a connected tale, it has 
many faults of technique; but as a series of sketches it is 
above criticism. Talvj would have us consider it in this light, 
for in her introduction she said : "I do not aim to give a full 
picture of North America to my readers, but rather only 
detached pictures out of American life, as they have appeared to 

— » 127 — 

me during the experience of many years." ^*® She purposely 
omitted poHtics, for in her estimation they were outside of the 
sphere of a true woman. Some of the characters are drawn 
so vividly and with such startling adherence to reality that 
they seem to be real personages. To those, however, who 
voice this impression she answers that individual truth is not 
always personal truth. None of the characters are portrayals 
of definite persons, none of the situations are descriptions of 
actual occurrences. A calm quiet tone pervades her scenes. 
Even sketches which picture intense moments of pain and 
suffering are characterized by quietness and restraint. 

A brief consideration of the beginning of the story will 
suffice to show the trend of the book and to suggest its de- 
velopment. A wealthy German girl, an orphan, comes of age 
and inherits her property. In an interview with her guardian, 
she announces her intention of proceeding at once to America 
with her lover, Franz Hubert. She has succeeded in obtain- 
ing Hubert's release from prison, where he had been thrown 
for a political offense, only on condition that they should 
emigrate to the United States.^*^ Neither Hubert nor Klothilde, 
the heroine, are temperamentally fitted for the trials and hard- 
ships to be encountered in settling in a new country. Types 
of the highest culture, they little realize what it will mean to 
live the life of a pioneer in the midst of primitive conditions. 
Klothilde's guardian, who is himself desirous of marrying her, 
uses all his power to dissuade her from taking this step, but in 
vain. She joins her lover at Bremen, expecting to be married 
before stepping upon the ship. But as the ship in which they 
are to sail for America is on the point of departure and all is 
hurry and bustle, the lovers have no time for the marriage 
service, for Klothilde will not rush through the sacred cere- 
mony as one rushes through a meal while the coach waits at 
the door. As there is no pastor on board, they are obliged to 
postpone the ceremony until they reach the New World. The 
destination of the voyage is New Orleans. When near the 
coast of Florida the ship takes fire and nearly all on board 

^■^^Talvj, Die Auswanderer, Vorwort. 

1*3 Talvj, The Exiles, chap. vi. 

— 128 — 

perish, either in the burning vessel, or through the sinking of 
the overcrowded row boats. Only one boatload of passengers 
escapes, and, after being driven about on the ocean for days, 
with tortures beyond human endurance, it reaches the shores 
of Florida. Klothilde is among the rescued. Hubert would 
have been also, but at the last moment he had rushed back to 
secure Klothilde's property, and when he returned the boat was 
crowded. Insane with fear and excitement, one of the men 
already in the boat beats him back with an oar, and Klothilde 
sees him disappear into the gaping jaws of a huge wave. The 
boat gains the land with its occupants more dead than alive. 
Alonzo Castleton, the planter to whose home Klothilde is 
carried, gives her hospitality and care during a terrible illness 
of three months, during which a kind Providence robs her of 
consciousness. After her recovery she realizes the necessity of 
supporting herself. All of her property has been sacrificed; 
the house in New York, through which her money had been 
sent to America, has failed and she is penniless. Through 
Alonzo, she obtains a situation as teacher of German and music 
in a private family at Charleston. The household scenes here 
are admirably drawn, and the two sisters, Virginia and Sarah, 
are especially well done. Virginia's fiery Spanish blood makes 
her daring enough to run ofl:' with an adventurer, to bid de- 
fiance to her relatives, and outwit the keenest of tliem. In 
the pages of an undisguised romance, the part Virginia's tem- 
perament plays in uniting Klothilde and the miraculously saved 
Hubert would be acceptable ; but the boldness with which the 
author binds together the threads of the theme, constitute the 
weakness of the work as a novel. 

The first volume of the story ends with Klothilde's 
recognition of Hubert and her subsequent marriage to him. 
The second volume is taken up largely with their trials and 
difficulties in making a home of their own. Klothilde and 
Hubert have many things to tell each other, and it is in these 
conversations that the author so skillfully works in her German 
ideals. At last the two are settled at Woodhill, a beautiful 
New England village. Here, on the very eve of Klothilde's 
becoming a mother, Hubert is ruthlessly snatched from her, 

— / 129 — 

the victim of a duel which is the outgrowth of jealousy caused 
by his former relations with Virginia. The young mother 
cannot withstand the shock of a second parting and dies. 

One of the most successful portions of the book deals 
with Klothilde's life with the Castletons. Sarah is the 
exact opposite of her dashing sister. She is pious, after 
a fashion dear to the heart of Cotton Mather, with whom, 
indeed, she is able to claim relationship. Her library is thus 
described: "In the middle of the plain white marble mantel- 
piece lay an enormous Bible, bound in velvet and gold, and 
concentrating in its outer garment, as it were, all the splendor 
which otherwise was carefully avoided in the whole room ; on 
both sides of this stood, in tasteful and regular groups, some 
smaller books, mostly memoirs of pious missionaries, Dodd- 
ridge's Rise and Progress, Hannah More's Practical Piety, 
Melville's Bible Thoughts, and several other books of the 
kind. On the toilet table lay another Bible, smaller in size 
and plainer in dress. This was obviously meant for reading, 
the large one only to reverence."^^- Almost the first question 
Sarah puts to Klothilde is, "How many hours daily do you 
spend in prayer, Miss Osten?" "I would wish you,' she con- 
tinued, "to look upon this humble chamber as the haven to 
which the Lord has brought you to learn to praise his 
Almighty name even for the storms by which he has shat- 
tered the slight vessel of your earthly happiness." All of 
her conversation is in this strain, sincere beyond all doubt, 
but stamped by the narrowness of formal orthodoxy. The 
following excerpt shows the lifelessness of such a faith : 
"Klothilde approached Sarah's table, and opened the Bible at 
the mark which she had left in it. She wished to see what 
part of the Holy Scriptures had exerted such a strangely 
soothing influence over her, after her heart had just been 
pained by her conversation about her sister's dangerous course, 
her father's indifference, and the early loss of her mother. She 
saw with astonishment that Sarah had just been reading the 
twelfth chapter of Joshua, the record of the great warrior's 
victory, which contains a topographical description of the 

— 130 — 

conquered land and the names of the thirty-one vanquished 
Kings. And yet in reading it, she looked as attentive as if 
she were reading the Sermon on the Mount, or some other 
immediate outpouring of the Spirit. Klothilde did not know 
that Sarah made it a rule to read the Bible through in order, 
from beginning to end, at her morning and evening devotions, 
and only at other times allowed her heart the luxury of 
drinking in its favorite portions. And are there not among 
her brethren in the church many most estimable families, 
where the genealogies and the reports of the bloodiest 
atrocities of the degenerate people of God, serve just as much 
for an introduction to family prayer as other parts of the 
Bible, because it might appear like sinfully despising the Word 
of God to pass over these and certain other portions, at the 
readings of which the mistress of the house, at least, would 
prefer not to have her daughters and young maid-servants." 
Sarah was so overwhelmingly pious that, when difficulty 
occurred in getting help, she thought it right to pray that God 
would send them "a very good servant-girl." She knew a lady 
who prayed for an excellent girl, and "lo and behold ! the 
next morning the Lord sent her an uncommonly able girl from 
New Hampshire." This girl was a real blessing in the house. 
She cooked, baked excellent bread, washed and ironed, helped 
wash and dress the children, and took two of them to church 
with her." But her pious mistress was not able to keep her, 
for a still more pious lady offered her a quarter of a dollar 
a week more! 

Another admirable bit of satire in character portrayal is 
contained in the following: "Besides the question about the 
restoration of the Jews, Mrs. Gardiner had another favorite 
subject, upon which she liked to turn the conversation and 
gather different opinions. It was this: What had become of 
the ten lost tribes of Israel ? Mrs. Weller, with whom she often 
used to discuss the subject, adhered firmly to the old view, that 
they are to be found in the North American Indians. But for 
Mrs. Gardiner, who had inherited from her ancestor, the 
celebrated Dr. Cotton Mather, an unconquerable repugnance to 
the filthy, stiff-necked race of Indians, it being, as it were, 

— 131 — 

in her blood, this origin was far too good for them, and 
although she did not acknowledge it, she was inwardly much 
more inclined to put faith in the old theory which Hubbard, 
the historian mentions as a possible one, namely that this 
brood was begotten by Satan himself, during his banishment, 
when he took a couple of witches with him for company. The 
ten lost tribes, she believed with other learned persons, to have 
been discovered in Persia among the Nestorians, or rather 
among the ancient Chaldeans, for she was of the firm opinion 
that these two nations were one and the same, and could not 
refrain from some doubts of the Orthodoxy of those scholars 

who rejected this arbitrary supposition There was 

another point in which the two ladies differed that threatened 
sometimes to have more serious consequences. It was the 
question whether the Sabbath commenced on Sunday at sun- 
rise or on Saturday at Sunset." ^^° 

Mrs. Weller, who was born in Connecticut, was of the 
latter opinion, so that in her home the housework of the week 
had to be finished before sunset on Saturday — a requirement 
which, in view of the demands of her four children, and the 
lack of help, often wrought upon her a considerable hardship. 
It was the duty of the eldest little daughter to gather the 
children's toys and lock them up in the cupboard until 
Monday morning. Even the two-year old baby dared not 
murmur. If it were winter they might listen to the parents' 
stories of their own childhood and at times interrupt them with 
laughter or with questions. This description is continued in 
a most attractive way. With others, it portrays a domestic 
life piteously misled by the narrow teachings of a senseless 

The quiet home scenes in Richard Castleton's home sudden- 
ly change into a picture of terrible storm. Virginia, growing 
more and more restless and irritable under the secret of her 
love, vents her ill humor on her slave, Phyllis. With malice 
in her heart, the latter dashes to pieces the picture of her 
mother, Virginia's dearest treasure. The subsequent whipping 

150 Talvj, The Exiles, chap, x, part 1. 

— 132 — 

of the slave and the successful attempt to bribe her back into 
good humor by gratifying a material desire, give Talvj 
a chance to express her views upon the slaver}- question. 
"Klothilde sighed deeply. For the first time she saw clearly 
how terrible a curse the condition of slavery was to mankind. 
Abuse of the body, infringement of personal liberty, exorbitant 
demands of work — what are all these compared with the 
degradation of one's finer sensibilities, with the humiliation of 
self-respect, with the very deadening of all desire to be free 
and masters of one's own soul." 

Talvj did not approve of the methods of many of the 
abolition leaders, but this did not mean she opposed abolition. 
Her attitude is clearly brought out in this story of The Exiles. 
Nothing in Uncle Tom's Cabin had a greater abolitionist 
tendency than many of her views expressed by Bergmann. 
But her method was altogether innocent of the antagonistic 
sting which she so severely condemned in others. 

Another great movement which she did not overlook was 
the emancipation of woman. In one of Klothilde's conversa- 
tions with Mrs. Gardiner she answers, in Goethe's spirit the 
question, "What language, Miss Osten, do you think was first 
spoken in the world?" "I have no idea, such learned investiga- 
tions we German wonien gladly leave to our philological 
students." The American woman was clamoring for an equal 
position with men not only in educational but in political 
matters as well. Hubert's reply to Klothilde's complaint over 
an act of discourtesy well deserves a repetition in the twentieth 
century — "It may be, at least I know, her behavior made it 
right for me to keep my seat undisturbed." The movement 
was then in its earliest stages, and was calling forth little more 
than ridicule. 

Both Sealsfield and Talvj were struck by the emptiness of 
the "Young Ladies' Seminary" type of education. Talvj said: 
"The advantage of a regular school education is recognized 
among all classes of society to such an extent that the young 
girls whose instruction in youth was necessarily neglected be- 
cause of the poverty of the parents, often engage in domestic 

— 133 — 

service for some years, in order to get a little money with 
which to attend a 'Young Ladies' Academy' for one or two 
years. ^^^ And thus they obtain a higher education !" Fre- 
quently, as she pointed out, the result was arrogance on the 
part of the daughter which often inspired a refusal to recog- 
nize her ignorant mother; or, on the other hand, the mother's 
empty pride in her daughter's wonderful achievements. Seals- 
field said about the sam.e subject: "Now to make a passing 
remark, this is the manner and fashion in which our mushroom 
aristocracy is formed. A couple of daughters are sent to a 
fashionable school. On their return home, they attract with 
their companions a few dozen young coxcombs, and their 
daughters' glory naturally reflects on the good papa and the 
dear mamma." ^^- 

Where Sealsfield remarked upon the emphasis placed on 
money, Talvj remarked upon that placed on birth. She 
said: "The Germans notice with a secret smile what im- 
measurable worth this son of a democratic republic places 
upon noble origin and family relationship. A longer res- 
idence in America should teach them that no nation on earth 
places more value on excellent birth and bonds of relationship 
than the democratic Americans."^^^ Sealsfield, on the other hand, 
said : "No nation in the universe has so stiff an appearance as 
ours, and especially our good families; for thank Heavens! 
our middling classes, the real nation, know nothing of it. But 
our aristocracy — that is, those who would like to be it — if it 
depended on them our popular independence would soon be 
destroyed. The man who has a hundred thousand dollars will 
not condescend to look at one who has fifty thousand, and the 
latter is as arrogant toward him who has only ten thousand. 
You are just as respectable as you are heavy." ^^* 

Conditions in America in regard to music, art, poetry, and 
religion were impartially considered by her, not as invit- 
ing superficial criticism, but as one offering explanation for 

1^1 Talvj, The Exiles, chap, iv, part 2. 

i°2 Sealsiield, Sketches of American Society, p. 7. 

153 Talvj. The Exiles, chap, iv, part 2. 

15* Sealsiield, Sketches of American Society, p. 74. 

— 134 — ■ ' 

the slow advance of general refinement. The practical trend of 
American affairs, the material interests of the whole nation, 
made the American spirit less ready to receive the influences of 
culture than the German. Did Francke have a material 
motive in founding his orphans' asylum in Halle? Have the 
great academies of science and art in Germany been evolved 
out of worldly motives? And yet Talv doubted this general 
opinion, for she did not feel that a painting need be less beauti- 
ful when painted to fulfill an order than if produced by inner 
feeling. The development of art and literature in America 
was hindered, in part, she said, by national self-love, which 
made the country wish to stand in the front rank and dictate to 
her neighbors, and partly by the absence of true criticism. A 
lack of discrimination and a senseless enthusiasm for everything 
written crippled and retarded the development of poetry. 
Architecture in America already showed great promise, which 
Talvj recognized and praised. She believed, however, that 
speculative philosophy, so fertile in Europe, could never become 
national in America. A group in Boston were pursuing it 
under the form of Transcendentalism, but for philosophy to be 
popular nationally seemed to her out of the question. It was 
not practical, not useful — the great slogan of the American 
nation. And, said Talvj, "It lies in the very nature of things 
that a democratic republic in itself cannot be an especial pro- 
motor of the fine arts and science but this will not pre- 
vent the true genius blazing a path for himself." ^^^ 

With such descriptions and observations Talvj wove a 
story of charm and interest. Truth to life, clearly reflective 
of actual experience, is so evident that one must needs believe 
in the character without having seen any even faintly similar. 
Her pictures are not merely hard, accurate reproductions ; they 
are photographs, enriched and vitalized by feeling and senti- 
ment. The power of her keen observation and her individuality 
of expression are constantly seen. Her style is simple and 
unstudied, clear and readable. 

155 Talvj, The Exiles, chap, iv, part 2. 

— 135 — 


As one considers the works of Talvj in their entirety, a 
very simple and logical division suggests itself, namely : scien- 
tific and aesthetic. Under the latter head may be grouped her 
poetry, comparatively insignificant in bulk, and her novels; 
under the former all her other writings, for the most part 
either purely historical, or — to use a term especially applicable 
to her work in popular poetry — cultural historical. 

For a young nation, lacking a long period of historical 
development, it is not hard to realize how significant a really 
scientific treatment of the events of early settlement was. 
Mute evidence to the fact that previous to the Revolution 
America possessed practically no historical literature is fur- 
nished by the poverty of material covering this period. The 
long chronicles and records of events and dates cannot be 
viewed as the organized product of historical research, and, 
as has been pointed out in a previous chapter, their very authen- 
ticity is doubtful. Into a nation lacking historical sense, Talvj 
came as the representative of a country where the historical 
viewpoint was paramount. She had absorbed the influence of 
that whole period in which the present, gropingly trying to 
bring itself into comm.unication with the classical past, dis- 
covered that changed and progressive condition of life made 
a union with bygone ages impossible, and thus became con- 
scious of a brilliant future. The time was instinct with a 
desire to embrace the whole cycle of development and the cul- 
mination of this desire was the historical viewpoint. In her 
whole historical method we may trace the influence of Herder's 
and Hum.boldt's views concerning history. I mention the 
names of these two authors, because Herder's view of history 
was very thoroughly developed by Humboldt, especially in the 
latter's essay Ueber die Aufgabe eines Geschichtsschreihers. 
Herder regarded the whole development of the world as his- 
torical. Lamprecht has expressed this point of view very 
well when he says, "As the Greeks developed art, the Romans 
law, so each nation in turn will develop other sides of life until 
the cycle of culture is complete and God's purpose is accom- 

— 136 — 

plished." ^^^ With this idea as a basis, Humboldt defined the 
task of the historian as representing, simply and sincerely, what 
had happened. The events of the past are evident to our senses, 
through their results, only in part ; the rest must be arrived at 
by a process of analysis and reasoning. What appears is dis- 
sociated, out of its proper relation, and isolated ; the real truth 
of what has happened rests upon the discovery of these invisible 
parts which, joined with the visible, will make the whole ap- 
parent and tangible. And this work of juncture, said Hum- 
boldt, was the task of the historian. That Talvj derived much 
help and inspiration from both of these great representatives 
of German culture is evidenced by her effort to act upon this 
very idea. This is especially well illustrated in the last chapter 
of her history. From the saliency of resulting events we ap- 
preciate more clearly that causes were hidden during this 
period of unrest at the close of the seventeenth century. Her 
success in combining the scattered facts of chance records into 
a related unity, thereby achieving a communication in which 
Humboldt says the historian is like the poet, in my judgment, 
makes Talvj 's treatment of this phase of American history 
stand out conspicuously above that of any of her contem- 
poraries. Her tracing of the inner history of religious evolu- 
tions, for exam.ple, shows how an idea strove and grew until 
it won for itself an existence in reality. Her work here is a 
sound illustration of Humboldt's principles that in all that 
happens there rules an underlying idea not immediately perceiv- 
able, but clearly recognizable in the occurrences. Again, in her 
History of John Smith, she embodies both Herder's and Hum- 
boldt's belief, that the spirit of humanity is the spirit of the 
world. By making her History of John Smith an intensive 
study of the History of Virginia she showed how great indi- 
viduals are more likely to be the results of great political 
movements than the causes of them. She thus, of course, 
anticipated a method of historical presentation which today 
is very popular. 

Turning now to the consideration of the other sphere of 
her scientific writing, her books upon folk lore, we see her 

1516 Lamprecht, Deutsche GescJiichte, vol. viii, p. 323. 

— 137 — 

again embodying the idea of the three great scholars, Herder, 
Goethe and Grimm. Herder's aim was to penetrate to the 
innermost nature of man by a study of his folk songs. His 
interest was not the interest of the abstract scholar or collector, 
but a vivid practical desire to implant the fundamental prin- 
ciples of human nature into the culture of his times, thereby 
furthering its development. Goethe and Grimm both held this 
view and each in his own way influenced German culture by 
the results of his studies in the ballad and popular poetry. 
Talvj's actual purpose with her Charakteristik der Volkslieder 
was not to undertake a scientific examination of popular poetry, 
but rather to place emphasis upon poetry as a natural expres- 
sion, and as a simple safeguard against the danger of ultra- 
refinement and artificiality, which even then seemed to be 
making itself felt in America. By introducing Herder's ^" 
great point of view she opened the eyes of Americans to that 
source of human culture which had saved Germany from the 
disastrous effects of artificiality. 

Through Goethe and Grimm, Talvj received her first in- 
spiration to study popular poetry. This inspiration became an 
earnest purpose which carried her father into the field than 
most of her predecessors, and than any of her contemporaries. 
She did not follow Grimm's steps into philological research, 
but she was as great an enthusiast as he in collecting old songs. 
Herder had hoped for a German Percy, who, like the good 
English Bishop would discover and gather together a similarly 
rich harvest of old songs. In a measure she fulfilled his hope. 
Her treatment was original in that she made these songs the 
basis for a cultural history, first giving the significance to it by 
prefixing a political-historical setting. Again, her work was 
original in that she undertook to explain the importance of 
folk lore, pointing out that as the natural expression of a 

1^^ In a short biographical sketch of Mrs. Robinson the Interna- 
tional Magazine for 1850 and 51 says of this book: "This is a work of a 
most comprehensive character and fills up a deficiency which was 
constantly becoming more apparent in the direction opened by Her- 
der." The highest praise of the book and its author's ability follows, 
vol. i, p. 306. 

-. 138 — 

primitive people it was important for literature and for national 

In her aesthetic works she shows the influence of move- 
ments and tendencies rather than personages. In tone and 
meter her poetry bore a great similarity to Schiller's ; but it 
hardly seems profitable to pause upon it longer than to point 
out this fact. In her novels, however, which reflect the in- 
toward romanticism, then in its wholesome and promissing 
youth, made her work worthy of greater attention. The 
Exiles, written in 1852, gives poetic expression to the great 
contemporary tendency in Germany, and indeed in all Europe, 
to seek freedom of thought and action. It is remarkable in 
itself as well as significant that her work alone among 
America's writers gave atistic expression through the pages 
of a novel to this great contemporary movement, one of 
whose immediate results was the immigration of 1848. It is 
significant also that she should have caused her heroine to be 
cast upon the coast of Florida instead of New England, that 
the German thoughts and ideals embodied in Klothilde should 
have been implanted first of all in the home of southern aris- 
tocracy, thence slowly wending their way northward. A narrow 
and provincial pride in the Puritan fathers had kept people 
from realizing that the real seat of culture was then in the 
South and that this was the most fertile field in which to 
develop new ideals. 

How successfully Talvj transmitted these cultural in- 
fluences to the American people can as yet be gauged only 
indirectly, by a logical inference from its value and the im- 
pressionability of the public to whom it was presented, for 
critical estimates of her work in American magazines and news- 
papers were few.^^* The lack of them is by no means due to 
any want of appreciation of her services by American editors, 
but to the undeveloped state of literary criticism in this country 
at that early period. The crudity and inadequacy of this de- 
partment of national literature was but natural in a country 

158 The following American magazines contain critical notices and 
reviews : North American Review, Harper's Monthly, International 
Monthly, Grahum's Magazine and Bibliotheca Sacra. 

— 139 — 

placing more emphasis on quantity than on quality of literary 
out-put, and, while frankly imitating English and French mas- 
ters in all its performances, had not yet realized its potential 
value. The development of criticism was hampered, moreover, 
by the fact that America's energy was being consumed in an 
effort to readjust, and to establish a firm basis for government, 
— that its cultural forces were being consumed by the harsh- 
ness and difficulties of material existence. In general, we 
know from the journals and diaries of some of America's 
most highly cultured men, that German ideals and thought 
exerted a marked influence upon them. Furthermore, we 
may infer from Talvj's personal acquaintance with niany of 
these men that she helped exert this influence. First in 
Boston and then in New York, her home, we are told, was 
the frequent center of social gatherings. Her membership 
and her highly-appreciated work in the New York Historical 
Society bespeak a recognition of her scholarly attainments; 
and as her historical presentations were always calm, scientific 
investigations we know certainly that to some Americans, at 
least, she was interpreting the Gernian point of view. The 
ready acceptance of her papers on the part of the leading 
American magazines indicates, also, a very substantial recog- 
nition of her ability. 

Recognition was also accorded her by contemporaiy New 
York newspapers at the various times her works appeared. 
Upon the publication of Heloise in 1851, a number of flatter- 
ing comments appeared. The hope was invariably expressed 
that more books might follow from the pen of the author of 
Heloise. Through this book, one Am.erican newspaper re- 
marked, Talvj brought to many the atmosphere of Russian 
life; a service of especial interest and timeliness at a moment 
when translations of many Russian stories were being dis- 
seminated both in Germany and America. A new work by 
Talvj, as another paper expressed it, was an event which could 
not fail to attract considerable attention, and was not likely 
to be overlooked by her numerous and intelligent circle of 

Critics were well agreed as to the significance of her treatise 

— 140 — 

upon the Literature of the Slavic Nations. To be credited with 
having supplied a noted deficiency in English, American, and 
even German scholarship, as one New York paper did, is 
unusual praise, and carries with it a recognition of her ability 
and keen intellect. The London Athaeneum of 1850 speaks 
of this work in the following terms: "This is an American 
publication, by, we believe, a German lady settled in that 
country. It has no pretentions to profound learning; but as it 
treats in a light and and popular manner a subject on which 
English readers have very scanty means of obtaining informa- 
tion, it will not fail of a welcome. Indeed we know of no 
book in our own language which gives anything like so com.plete. 
and attractive an epitome of the great Slavonic nations North 
and South." ^^® In this work she entered a field rarely trodden 
even by those scholars in Germany who push their researches 
into regions which the mass of philologists never think of ex- 
ploring. Still another significant statement discovered in one of 
the newspaper comments related to the translation she made of 
her own work, Life's Discipline, in 1851. "Talvj is teaching 
us," said this article, "to appreciate the Hungarians in spite of 
the North American." This would imply a somewhat active 
interest in the Hungarians and their history just about this tim.e. 
May it not have been this very interest that led her to translate 
a book which so artistically but faithfully portrays Hungarian 
history and political intrigue ? 

An unfortunate feature in regard to these criticisms, which 
are pitifully meager and lacking in detail, is that they are 
accessible only in the shape of clippings, to which the names 
of the respective newspapers and magazines have not been 
attached. One, recognizable by its type, is from the New 
Yorker Belletristisches Journal, a German weekly of the highest 
literary standing. Another, as we know from a slight refer- 
ence made in the course of the discusion is from some theolog- 
ical paper. During these years many of the theological pub- 
lications, in the east especially, presented reviews, criticisms, 
and even productions of high literary merit. Criticisms of 
secular productions were at that time of perhaps greater 

'^'-•^ London Athaeneum, 1850, p. 1069. 

— 141 — 

frequency and significance than they have since been, for 
today magazines of this nature are inclined to treat only those 
works which bear directly on theological subjects. 

From the critical resources available, unsatisfactory as they 
are, is evident that in the early and middle years of the 
nineteenth century, Talvj fulfilled a great service to Amer- 
ican culture as a disseminator and interpreter of the cul- 
ture of a nation which has always been recognized as distinctive 
for its universality. The mission of the German-Americans to 
the future civilization of America, is, we may say, to pre- 
serve and cultivate the best of their inheritance in music, 
literature, art, religion, and philosophy, in order that each in- 
dividual m.ay become the highest possible exponent of German 
ideals and principles. Through the Germans a healthy senti- 
ment has been infused into a sort of Puritan ascetism, and 
German ideals have tempered materialism and regenerated 
orthodoxy by representing humanity and religion as one. This, 
too, we may say, was Talvj 's m.ission in America; to bring 
the New World into the higher spheres of human life by unit- 
ing the best German spirit with the best of American spirit, 
in the hope of establishing on this side of the Atlantic, a truly 
national culture, worthy to rank with the culture of the older 
nations beyond the seas. 


Adams, H. B. — Thomas Jefiferson and the University of Virginia. U. S. 

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Bristed, John — Die Hilfsquellen der Vereinigten Staaten Amerika's. 

New York, 1818. Uebersetzt Weimar, 1819. 
Carver, Jonathan — Travels in Wisconsin. New York, 1838. 
Duponceau — Memoir of the celebrated Treaty made by Willam Penn 

in Memoirs of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, vol. xii, Phila- 
delphia, 1876. 
Duyckinck — Cyclopedia of American Literature, vol. ii. New York, 


— 142 — 

Encyclopedia Britannica — Celtic and Gaelic Literature, vol. v. 

Eckermann — Gesprache mit Goethe. Leipzig. 

Faust, A. B. — Das Deutschtum in den Vereinigten Staaten. Leip- 
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Fisher, Sydney G. — The Legendary and Myth-Making Process in His- 
tories of the American Revolution. New York and Philadelphia, 

Geiger, L. — Goethe Jahrbuch, vol. xii. Frankfurt a. M. 1891. 

Goebel — Das Deutschtum in den Vereinigten Staaten. Miinchen, 1904. 

Goethe — Kunst und Altertum. Weimar Edition. 

Goethe— Briefe 1823—1828. Weimar Edition. 

Goethe— Tagebucher 1824—1826. Weimar Edition. 

Goethe — Wilhelm Meister. Weimar Edition. 

Goodnight, S. H. — German Literature in American Magazines prior 
to 1846. Madison, Wisconsin 1907. 

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Grund, Francis J. — Die Amerikaner in ihren moralischen, politischen 
und gesellschaftlichen Verhaltnissen. Stuttgart und Tiibingen, 1837. 

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Haym — Die Romantische Schule. Berlin 1870. 

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_4 143 — 

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Rattermann, H. A. — Deutsch-Amerikanisches Biographikon und Dich- 

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nerung an ihren lOOsten Geburtstag. Pressburg, 1897. 
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1837. Leipzig, 1838. 


Academy — Vol. xxxix & xlvi. Ossian. 

Americana Germanica — Vol. i-iv. / 

American Quarterly Review — 1837, Review of Grund's Work. ^ 

Athaeneum — Vol. i. Ossian. 

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neglected Aspects of the Revolutionary War. 
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Education in Germany. 

— 144 — 

Bibliotheca Sacra — Vol. iv. Article by Philip Schaf. German Literature 
in America. 
Vol. vii. Article by Prof. C. E. Stowe. Review of Talvj's History. 

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Vol. cxci. — Articles — Musings with- 
out Method. 

Blackwood's — Vol. ci. — Article on Ossian. 

Deutsche Rundschau — January 1913. Article on Wilhelm Dilthey von 
Bernhard Groethuysen. 

The Dial — Vol. i. German Literature. 

Eraser's Magazine — Vol. ci. Ossian. 

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Hallesche Nachrichten. 

Harper's New Monthly — Vol. i & ii. Criticism of Talvj's Works. 

International Monthly — Vol. ii. & v. Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Ro- 
binson and article on translation of her History. 

Knickerbocker — Vol. xxiii. Sealsfield. 

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Living Age — Vol. Iv. Article on Ossian. 

Morgen-Blatt— 1823. Pustkuchen und Goethe. 

Morgen-Blatt — 1826. Volkslieder der Serben von Talvj. 

Morgen-Blatt— 1840. Charakteristik der Volkslieder von Talvj. 

North American Review — 1819. Review of Heckewelder's Work. 

North American Review — 1849. Review of Talvj's History of New- 

Preussische Jahrbiacher — May 1894. Briefwechsel zwischen Jakob 
Grimm und Therese von Jacob. Berlin, 1904. 

Southern Literary Messenger — Vol. x. Sealsfield. 

Spectator — Vol. Ixxiii. Ossian. 

Studien zur Literaturgeschichte. — Der Untergang des Volkslieds von 
Alfred Gotze. Leipzig, 1912. 

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Zeitschrift fiir den deutschen Unterricht — Vol. v. Materialien zur Ge- 
schichte des deutschen Volkslieds von Rudolf Hildebrand. 


The following is a list of her works arranged with regard to their 

Gedichte — signed Reseda. Theodor Hell's Abendzeitung 1820 

Ein Aufsatz iiber einen Gegenstand der englischen Literatur — Lite- 

rarisches Wochenblatt. December 1821 

*Briefe eines Frauenzimmers — Literarisches Conversationsblatt. .1821-22 
Uebersetzung des Walter Scottischen Romans — signed Ernst 

Berthold— Black Dwarf. Taschenbibliothek Nos. 43-44 1821 

— 145 — 

Old Mortality— Taschenbibliothek Nos. 71-74 1821 

Eine kritische Anzeige von Wuk Stephanowitsch Karadschitsch, 
Sammlung serbischer Volkslieder. Literarisches Conversa- 

tionsblatt, May 1824 

Psyche ein Taschenbuch bei Fr. Ruff. Halle 1825 

* Volkslieder der Serben — 3 editions, Brockhaus, Leipzig 1825-26 

*Das vergebliche Opfer — Tiibinger Morgenblatt 1826 

*Der Lauf der Welt— Ein Taschenbuch 1834 

*Ueber die indianischen Sprachen Amerikas. Aus dem Englischen 
des Amerikaners John Pickering, iibersetzt und mit Anmer- 

kungen begleitet von Talvj. Leipzig 1834 

^Historical View of the Slavic Languages. — Biblical Repository. 

Andover and Nev^^ York 1834 

^Popular Poetry of the Teutonic Nations. North American Review 1836 
*Versuch einer Charakteristik der Volkslieder germanischer Natio- 
nen, mit einer Uebersicht der Lieder aussereuropaischer Vol- 

kerschaften. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1840 

*Die Unachtheit der Lieder Ossians und des Macpherson'schen 

insbesondere. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1840 

*Spanish Popular Poetry. North American Review 1842 

*Aus der Geschichte der ersten Ansiedlungen in den Vereinigten 
Staaten (Captain John Smith). Raumers Historisches Ta- 
schenbuch. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1845 

*Geschichte der Colonisation von Neu-England. Von der ersten 
Niederlassung daselbst im Jahre 1607 bis zur Einfiihrung der 
Provincialverfassung von Massachusetts im Jahre 1692. Nach 
den Quellen bearbeitet. Nebst einer Karte von Neu-England 

im Jahre 1674. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1847 

*The Loves of Goethe — Sartain's Union Magazine New Monthly. . . .1850 

*Life's Discipline, New York 1850 

*Heloise or The Unrevealed Secret. New York 1850 

*Historical View of the Languages and Literature of the Slavic 

Nations. New York and London 1850 

*Heloise (German) . Brockhaus, Leipzig 1852 

*Die Auswanderer. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1852 

Kurmark und Kankasus — Bibliothek der neuen belletrischen Lite- 

ratur. Nos. 575 — 576. Wurzen Verlags-Comptoir 1852 

Maria Barcoczy. B. d. n. b. Literatur. No. 613 1852 

*Uebersichtliches Handbuch einer Geschichte der slavischen Spra- 
chen und Literatur. Nebst einer Skizze ihrer Volkspoesie von 
Talvj. Mit einer Vorrede von Edward Robinson. Deutsche 
Ausgabe iibertragen und bevorwortet von Dr. B. K. Briihl, 

Brockhaus, Leipzig 1852 

*The Exiles, New York 1853 

*The Poetry of Southern France. Putnam's Magazine 1853 

— 146 — 


Eine deutsche Uebersetzung von Edward Robinson's "Biblical Re- 
searches in Palestine" under dem Titel, "Neuere biblische For 

schungen in Palestine" 1853-54 

*Charlemagne and his Household. North American Review 1855 

*Russian Slavery — North American Review 1856 

*Ein Ausflug nach dem Gebirge Virginiens im Sommer. Wester- 

manns Monatshefte Nos. 4-6 1856 

*Dr. Faustus— Atlantic Monthly 1857 

*Anna Louisa Karschin — Westermann's Nos. 23-24 1858 

*Die Shaker. Westermann's No. 48 1860 

*Die weissen Berge in Neu Hampshire — Zeitschrift aus der Fremde. 

Nos. 30—32 1860 

*Die Falle des Ottawas — Westermann's No. 53 1861 

*Deutschlands Schriftstellerinnen bis vor 100 Jahren — Raumer's 

Historisches Taschenbuch. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1861 

Physicshe Geographic des heiligen Landes. Aus dem Nachlass des 

Prof. Robinson — Vorrede von Talvj 1865 

*Funfzehn Jahre. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1868 

*Die Kosaken und ihre historischen Lieder. Westermann's No. 59.. 1869 

. .Ein Bild aus seiner Zeit. Westermann's Nos. 69 — 72 1870 

Gesammelte Novellen. Edited by her daughter 1874 


The following personal notes are of interest, perhaps, because of 
their authors : 

New York, Nov. 1, 1858. 
My dear Mr. Robinson : — 

My wife is not well enough to come into town and attend your 
party on Wednesday evening, though she is rather on the mend- 
ing hand. I do not often pass the night in town but hope to be able to 

do so on that occasion My wife desired me to express to you 

her love and her regrets. 

I am dear Madam, 

truly yours, 

W. C. Bryant. 

* * * 

New York, Nov. 1, 1858. 
Mr. Olmstead regrets that a previous engagement will prevent his 
acceptance of Mrs. Robinson's kind invitation for Wednesday evening 


* * * 

New York, January 9, 1850. 
My dear Mrs. Robinson : 

Mrs. Bancroft, who isn't very well this morning, begs me to write 
to you that for tomorrow evening she has two engagements of rather 

*Books I have been able to obtain. 

— 147 — 

long standing It is particularly a source of regret to us, as 

nothing would be more agreeable to us than to visit you and Mr. R. 
in the social friendly manner you propose. 
I remain, 

Dear Mrs. Robinson, 

Very truly yours, 

George Bancroft. 

:): * * 

New York, July 25, 1854. 
Dear Madam:— I shall be most happy to avail myself of your kind 
invitation to take tea with you this evening. 

Very sincerely yours, 

Bayard Taylor. 

— 148 


The writer was born in Ouincy, Illinois, September 1, 1882. 
After graduation and one year of post-graduate work at the 
Ouincy High School, she continued her education at the Illinois 
State Normal University at Normal, graduating from that in- 
stitution in 1902. Subsequently she was an assistant in the High 
School at Lexington, Illinois, for one year ; Principal of the 
Fulton, Illinois High School for three years ; and instructor 
in Latin in the Dixon, Illinois High School for three years. 
In the summer of 1909 she entered the University of Illinois 
from which institution she received her Bachelor's degree 
in June of 1910. In 1910 she was given a scholarship in the 
Graduate School of the University of Illinois and received 
her Master's degree in 1911. From 1911 to 1913 she held a 
fellowship in the Graduate School of the same institution and 
was given the Doctor's degree in June 1913. Since Septem- 
ber, 1913, she is occupying the position of Dean of Women 
in Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. 




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